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The best of times.

A young journalist of my acquaintance jokingly complained on Facebook about a technological failure at her office:

"Phones and internet are down at work. How were people reporters before there was an internet? How did they tweet gifs?"

My response:

"Gather around, kiddies, and I'll tell you a story about reporting in the days before social media, before the internet, before email, even before fax machines!"

It was 35 years ago this week that I graduated from Harding University with a B.A. in journalism. Almost exactly half of my subsequent career, 17 years and nine months, have been spent as editor of this publication, a plot twist that I would have dismissed as absurd in 1982.

By the time I arrived in the Arkansas Business newsroom in the summer of 1999, there were already young reporters who were internet-dependent. If they couldn't find some fact on a company's first-generation website, they were at a loss as to how to proceed. It was my first taste of generational clash in the workplace--at least from the older-manager side of the conflict. For Pete's sake, pick up the phone!

Since then, I've become as technologically dependent as anyone, although texting to me is still awkward and utilitarian rather than second nature as it is to my millennial sons and co-workers. It's one of the things I envy about the "digital natives, " although I can certainly see the perils of trying to conduct life on a cellphone. (In one of the most fascinating episodes of NBC's "Dateline, " a jealous young man murdered the fiance of a former girlfriend--and she had trouble remembering the killer's last name because their short relationship had been conducted mainly by text.)

I also admire the adventurousness of the millennials. These young adults seem fearless, and that, too, may be a result of the technology that keeps them constantly connected to their support systems (parents, friends, Amazon, the AAA tow truck driver). When I was in my 20s, the expense of a long-distance call was something I had to consider before dialing 1 plus the area code. (If those words brought a little tune to your head, you are as old as I am.)

Possibly because they've been awash in material goods their whole lives, the millennials seem less materialistic, and I admire that. They have also pressured employers into recognizing the responsibilities of parenthood. I'm delighted that paid maternity leave--and even paternity leave--is more common and more generous than it was when I had my babies in the early 1990s.

But in so many other ways, I'm grateful to have entered adulthood when I did and sympathetic to the millennials who blame us for handing them a raw deal. Consider:

* I had no student loan to pay, despite attending one of the most expensive colleges in the state, because my middle-class parents could, with reasonable sacrifice, pay the full cost out of current income. My in-laws had three in college at the same time, and that was definitely a stretch. Less fortunate students could earn their tuition by working in the summers and with part-time jobs. But saving for decades before college or paying for decades afterward was a foreign concept.

* Health insurance was cheap. My first employer, the Pine Bluff Commercial, was notoriously stingy with wages, like all small newspapers, but it provided a standard 80-20 point-of-service plan with a $200 annual deductible at no cost to me. That seems as quaint now as the IBM Selectrics on which I wrote my first news stories.

* Child care only seemed expensive. Honestly, I don't know how young parents manage $700 a month or more per child.

* Defined benefits pensions still existed in the private sector when I finished college, and not just for giant corporations. Within a few years, they were phased out in favor of defined contribution plans that might--or might not--have employer matches. Will millennials be better about saving for retirement than boomers and Gen X? With those student loan payments, child care and health care expenses, I don't see how they can--at least not early enough for time to really be on their side. (If those words brought a little tune to your head, you are as old as I am.)

Gwen Moritz

GMoritz@ABPG.com

Gwen Moritz is editor of Arkansas Business. Email her at GMoritz@ABPG.com

Arkansas Business welcomes Letters to the Editors. Letters must be signed and writers must include their hometowns and contact information so we can confirm their identity. Letters are subject to editing for clarity, length, spelling and punctuation.

Letters may be mailed to Editor Gwen Moritz, Arkansas Business, 114 Scott St., Little Rock, AR 72201; faxed to (501) 375-7933; or emailed to GMoritz@ABPG.com.
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Title Annotation:Editor's Note
Author:Moritz, Gwen
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 8, 2017
Words:788
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