On Leaving the Newsroom

It is magic, writing news. We have an honored front row seat in life,
the chance to walk through the bat cave for six hours seeing the last
ceilingsful of bats, mysteriously dying. It is a privilege to listen
to the victim tell of brain injury, grief, monster trucks or false imprisonment.
It is a gift to be able to read the actual Slut List, meet a hunter at 5:30 a.m.,
write haiku from the signs in the train car, talk to Billy Collins by cell phone,
watch the drips fall off Michael Phelps’ shoulders, hear “good luck”
from the flood victims who need it more than we do, work with Dith Pran,
watch a bishop get elected, attend a Nocturnal Bird Migration Concert,

know a little bit about just about everything, start with rumors and end
with reality, swear by precision, become incapable of fibbing, ask
questions with abandon, take notes on talkers more profound
than any of our imaginations, distill it, discuss it, dither over it
and hit Send, so a million others can know what we learned.

It was here I learned Mohammad Attah’s eyes were so dark,
no one could see his pupils. It was here I talked to the man
who bought his late wife’s favorite perfume to spray it on his pillow
before he went to bed, the only way he could sleep.

You can’t buy a front row seat like that. It’s priceless, and there are fewer
and fewer of them. And for ten years I’ve been paid to sit, or stand,
or run, or speed, or blog, in the front row. How few are this lucky.


15 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Saul Hansell on December 11, 2009 at 11:43 pm

    So True.


  2. Beautiful. I wish you luck in the future.


  3. Posted by Tiffany Midge on December 12, 2009 at 12:07 am

    Wrenching, damn, especially that penultimate stanza. Got me. All best to you Sweetie.


  4. Thank you, Tina, for sharing your thoughts. (I came here via @clairecm)
    You captured the world of a journalist in such melodic, rich prose.
    It reminded me of my own thoughts as I left my newspaper job two years ago.
    We may all come from different kinds of newspapers – small, large and in-between – but those of us who leave take with us unique stories and personal experiences that have a worth beyond the words we write. I, too, feel very lucky. Best wishes as you embark on this liberating journey!


  5. Posted by Derring Do on December 12, 2009 at 12:32 am

    This breaks my heart. Where will the passion come from for the future? Be well, and thank you.


  6. Tina,
    Nicely done. Yes, you are a poet. But we always knew that. Will miss your writing.
    Best of luck with your book project. Let me know how I can help. Jennifer P.


  7. Hey there – sorry to hear this news!

    Hope you enjoy what’s next – things have as strange way for turning out for the better.

    Enjoyed working with you on the few stories we were able to do – and that you could share my outrage on KK,



  8. Posted by P. Wayner on December 12, 2009 at 2:16 am

    Very nicely done. I worked briefly with Dith Pran on one story and I’ve shared a pool (but not a lane, thank goodness) with Michael Phelps when I swam at Meadowbrook (the pool in Baltimore that taught him everything he knows). But the other stuff is all new to me and the only way I know about it is through reading the paper. Thanks.



  9. It’s been decades, but I still remember…the angry defendant who lunged at a witness and broke the table in front of him, the endless public meetings (the good stuff always happens at the end), going to a baseball game with Richard Nixon and Robert Taft (both totally stiff), talking to the parents of the Kent State victims, interviewing Donald Johanson before he found Lucy, catching Norman Rockwell on a book tour, the fellow reporter who went on the lam with a company car….

    No other profession like it. I hope reporting morphs onto another platform, but without those newsrooms, it will never be the same.


  10. Posted by Angela on December 12, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    From a Metro stringer who came to journalism midlife, couldn’t have said it better. I’d interview a fire victim anytime over writing a pension plan, but that’s just me.


  11. […] On Leaving the Newsroom It is magic, writing news. We have an honored front row seat in life, the chance to walk through the bat cave for six […] […]


  12. Posted by rams on December 13, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    Dammit. I have friends doing the same thing, but we need the poets out there in their Clark Kent disguises, bringing us more than the surface. Better bump up the blog entries, Ms. Kelley — this poem’s already up on Facebook.

    -Susan Ramsey


  13. […] Tina Kelley (periodista del NYT) en su blog personal ▶ Ninguna respuesta /* 0) { jQuery('#comments').show('', change_location()); […]


  14. This is beautiful. And it’s the reason I’m still here, in the newsroom, in spite of how much things have changed. It would be so hard to give it up.


  15. Posted by from Madrid on January 7, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    You may like this: your poem in one of the largest digital newspapers of Spain. Congrats and good luck!



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