Is the Nostalgia Over Yet at the Inquirer and Daily News?

I've reached my limit when it comes to overwrought columns about the papers' move across town.

It’s been interesting watching staffers at the Inquirer and Daily News react to news of their office relocation. The move—less than a mile across town—starts this week for Inquirer staffers and will wrap up by the end of next week. For more than a month, writers for both papers have been bemoaning the move, which is expected to save substantial operating costs for the media company.

And, hey, I get it. Just last week, I wrote about how I’m moving for the fifth time in five years. Packing and unpacking is stressful and sad. But as the number of column inches dedicated to the Inky and DN’s move grows, I become less and less sympathetic.

Long-time columnists like Clark DeLeon, Daniel Rubin and Alfred Lubrano have written navel-gazing pieces about the elegance of the building and all it stood for. Former Inky staffer Gail Shister opined the glory days of watching the papers whoosh off the presses. In Lubrano’s extensive piece— an astonishing 10 pages online!—he notes that journalists are “dismayed to hear that tourists from Nebraska will be tipping bellhops where writers used to clamor and strut” after learning that building owner Bart Blatstein plans to turn the space into a hotel (and perhaps a casino).

One Daily News writer tells me that her colleagues were initially angry about the location of the new office in the old Strawbridge & Clothier store at Eighth and Market, claiming that the area is unsafe. (Believe me, I know the Gallery isn’t the most savory hangout in Philly, but last year, my friends were flashmobbed four blocks from the Inky’s current digs, so you’ll pardon my eye-rolling there.)

I understand that staffers are not necessarily mourning the loss of bricks and mortar. Instead, they are wistful about a glorious—but long gone—age of print journalism, when, as long-time Phillymag-er Sandy Hingston told me, “trucks screeched away from the loading docks in early-morning darkness to deliver the news to a waiting world.” As a young editor, I can’t fathom a time when journalism felt so monumentally important. In my world, if you don’t do the story, someone else will within 10 minutes.

As Inky and DN staffers know, the city is no longer waiting for the thump of a heavy newspaper on the doorstep each morning. Unfortunately, this isn’t exactly a new trend and drawing attention to the good ol’ days of print newspaper grandeur just serves as a reminder that Philly is seriously behind when it comes to the modern sharing of news. And a huge part of that problem is that journalism is evolving faster than news organizations and the people within them.

Spending precious column inches in shrinking newspapers grieving for a pre-Internet era of journalism strikes me as awfully self-aggrandizing, especially given the recent terrifyingly tenuous state of many journalists’ full-time jobs.

At my previous job at Philadelphia Weekly, I briefly glimpsed a newspaper’s financial belt-tightening. We took furloughs and paycuts and hard-working, long-time staffers were laid off as jobs were eliminated and combined—just as Inky and DN staffers have numerous times done throughout the years. If the suits had told us they were setting the building on fire with all our worldly possessions in it, the only thing I would’ve thought was, “Thank god I still have a job.” To read pages and pages of sad-sack stories about the glory days at 400 North Broad just reminds me why I got out of print journalism for a full-time web gig.

So, while I appreciate the nostalgia and respect the opinions of my colleagues moving on from 400 North Broad, I hope I won’t see any stories in their pages about growing pains in the new offices. The world is rushing forward and it’s time to move with it.