Ten years gone

Ten years ago today, I began my second stint at The News & Observer, the daily newspaper serving the Triangle region of North Carolina.

I’d previously worked at the paper in the 1990s as a copy editor in news, in the sports department and in its Orange County bureau. I left in 1997 when my wife finished her Ph.D. and took a job at Louisiana State University.

In early 2001, I returned after a three-year hiatus to be Nation & World editor, in charge of the paper’s coverage from the wire services. My task was to organize the stories from The Associated Press and other services, plan the A section pages and offer important stories from the wires for the front page.

It’s a job I held until the summer of 2005, when I left to take a job at UNC-Chapel Hill. After nearly five years on the wires (framed by the disappearances of Chandra Levy and Natalee Holloway), I was ready for a new challenge.

Yet my years at the N&O continue to influence my teaching. I will always consider myself an N&O person, thankful for my nearly 10 years there overall and the lifelong friends that I made during that time.

Many things have changed since that day in January 2001 when I restarted at the newspaper. Here’s a list of how some things were different then:

  • Social media didn’t exist; Facebook and Twitter hadn’t been invented.
  • The easiest way to get a coupon was in the Sunday paper; Groupon and Living Social didn’t exist.
  • Blogging was in its infancy.
  • The Washington Post-Los Angeles Times News Service was a viable competitor to The New York Times News Service and The Associated Press.
  • The Charlotte Observer and The News & Observer were competitors — if not for readers, then between journalists at those publications.
  • The N&O website largely consisted of uploading the content of the morning newspaper and was rarely updated during the day.
  • McClatchy, the company that owns the N&O, was living up to its tradition of never laying off employees.
  • No one talked about search engine optimization.
  • Copy editing was seen as an important part of the credibility of a newspaper.

Indeed, 2001 was a different time. Where will we be 10 years from now?

An earlier version of this post misspelled the name of Natalee Holloway. Thanks to @lexalexander for noting the error.