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'I've never had a job I didn't like'.

In more than a half-century, I've never had a job I didn't like.

How many people have been so fortunate?

Sure, some I liked less than others, but there's never been a day (or night) when I left for work without looking forward to the hours ahead. Nor is there a department in the newsroom in which I haven't worked at one time or another at one newspaper or another.

And there's nothing I haven't done. I've been a reporter, rewrite man, columnist, editorial writer, and just about every kind of editor there is.

Now I'm an FTE. That stands for "full-time equivalent."

Philadelphia Newspapers Inc. (PNI), which publishes the Inquirer and Daily News, is culling about 200 FTEs, as part of a campaign to help our parent company, KnightRidder, improve its profit margin.

In order to avoid layoffs, PNI has prepared a buyout package that, for many of us, is an offer we cannot refuse.

Today's fewer newspapers are slicker, more sophisticated, more concerned about ethics and fairness, far more diverse in personnel and content.... And bleeding circulation.

Today's journalists are better educated, more middleclass and respectable. And, according to all surveys, despised.

Some welcome changes: Many more of us are women (including top editors). Many more of us (although still not enough) are nonwhite. My first editors, crusty old guys with green eyshades, would never recognize the business.

It's been a great career, with great memories:

* Totally changing the Bulletin on November 22, 1963, page by page, between editions, to cope with the magnitude of the Kennedy assassination. (I recall tears running down the face of a tough old rewrite man taking a story on the phone from Dallas.)

* Candidate Bill Clinton, sticking around long after he had met with the Daily News editorial board, to chat about Elvis.

* Then-Governor Dick Thornburgh stalking out of a Daily News editorial board meeting, growling, "I don't have to take any more of this," but next day, when our paths crossed accidentally, coming over and saying: "Wasn't that fun yesterday?"

* National Conference of Editorial Writers conventions in cities all over the United States and Canada (including the one I hosted in Philadelphia in 1993); and fact-finding trips to Eastern Europe, South Africa, China, India, and Pakistan.

* The artists, entertainers, athletes -- and politicians -- I have met in my many manifestations.

It's been a wonderful career, and I'm not exactly fading into the sunset. In fact, I have a couple of writing and editing jobs lined up.

But my newspapering days are history.

The other day, I was whining to legendary flack Sam Bushman (who is even older than I am): "Sometimes, I think this business is going to hell."

"That's what Jeff Keen used to say," he recalled.

Jeff was my first boss. An irreverent old pro who had become editor of a small weekly at the end of his career, he did indeed often say that -- 52 years ago!

Maybe he was wrong. Newspapers are different (and many fewer) but they're still here.

And so am I.

Don Harrison served as deputy editor of the Philadelphia Daily News opinion pages since the 1982 collapse of the Bulletin, where he held several editor posts. This is his last column for the Daily News.
COPYRIGHT 2001 National Conference of Editorial Writers
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:newspaper columnist reflects on his career
Author:HARRISON, DON
Publication:The Masthead
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U2PA
Date:Sep 22, 2001
Words:541
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