No Place For Old Men

The media universe has become a hostile place for old men.

About time. I spent 42 years in a career dominated by old and young men and concluded, when the handwriting on the wall of the now transformed Tribune Tower in Chicago was clear, it was probably past time for me to go.

So the Chris Matthews “retirement” doesn’t actually surprise me. Didn’t you notice that he had become so aggressive he wasn’t letting anyone say much of anything before just leaping in to opine? Losing a sense of how you seem is one of the saddest signs of aging. He had slipped, I would argue, from being provocative, which is good, to being irritating, which is not.

Still, it’s sad to see what had been such a strong career end. But he never was a journalist, so it’s not like he’s journalism’s loss. Commentary? Sure. He is commentary’s loss. But there are still oodles of liberals eager to comment so he won’t be missed for long. Which is also too bad. I took my guitar to work on the day I left journalism what, 12 years ago now, when the Tribune was starting its struggle and asking veterans to take buy-outs. I sang an old labor song, which everyone misunderstood as a shot at management.

It was not. It was just a good old labor song. I had no gripe with management at the Tribune. Even though no women were apparent in the high upper upper reaches of news until Ann Marie Lipinski ascended (thank God for her) I got a year’s salary, which was great, and some extended benefits, which was also great. I also got to write the occasional op-ed piece, which was probably not so great because I was a reporter and editor and that kind of writing is different. I loved being edited by Marcia Lythcott because she was never shy about saying, “This is shit. I’m not running it.” She was almost always right about that. Anyhow, I was gone in good time, off to college to teach, which seems to be the purgatory God created for aging journalists who stay in touch enough.

Now all of that is over, too.

The Tribune Tower is condos so expensive one who ever worked in the common folk floors could never afford one. Ann Marie’s at Harvard and most of the men bosses of the Olden days are, how to say it kindly… dead! Chris made one big mistake at MSNBC, and it wasn’t about women or badly timed questions. It was about age. He missed it coming and it got him in the end. He was never gracious enough to be Eric Sevareid. Now he is old and out with a head full of things to say and no broadcasting place to say them. That’s not really a pity because times have changed, audiences have changed, and media still hates old folks. As an old person, I think that’s healthy. Young people are good for the brain. Vexing though they may well be, they still make you think. So shut up and think!

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