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    72 Marietta — I still love you

    by | Apr 25, 2010

    Friday, April 23, 2010, was one of the saddest, most spirit-withering days of my life. I had driven to the place in downtown Atlanta where I had worked faithfully, loyally, proudly for 35 years before retiring in 2005 — The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

    The old tan-colored 72 Marietta Street building, my safe haven for so many years, sat lonely, forlorn, abandoned, like a moth-balled old ship that had bore us safely through the howling storms but now had no purpose. Somehow, if I had been able, I would have wrapped my arms around the old place and said, “You did good. I loved you. This is not your fault. You did not cause this.”

    Actually, I was expecting a tinge of sadness when I went there. Two weeks earlier, the AJC had vacated the 38-year-old building and moved to Dunwoody. A month before that, the paper had invited us retirees to an open house to see for one last time the place where so many of the South’s greatest journalists had practiced their craft and heeded their calling. While at the open house, I paid $20 for an old newspaper street vending rack, like those that still dot Atlanta’s street corners. I would have to come back within a month to pick it up, I was told. The old street racks were being sold as memorabilia to raise money for the Empty Stocking Fund. I bought mine on a whim. Bo Emerson, who was standing there, asked what I was going to do with it. I told him I might turn it into a liquor cabinet: It would be keeping with tradition, since a newspaper rack was where an old editor I knew hid his liquor on Saturday nights when he helped put out the Sunday paper.

    So, I knew I would be a tad sad when I drove to 72 Marietta Street to pick up the rack. I was told that I had to pick it up from the loading docks. What I did not expect was the utter despair — and eeriness — that engulfed me when I turned from Fairlie Street into the loading dock area, just behind the newspaper building. It was about 4 p.m. Thirty years ago at that time of day, the docks would have been the busiest, most hopping place in Georgia. The whirring presses would have been running full-tilt, spitting out hundreds of thousands of copies of the afternoon Atlanta Journal. Conveyor belts, moving at awesome speeds, would have been clanking and grinding and workers yelling and cussing as they scurried to load a bevy of trucks with the evening paper. The fully loaded trucks, aiming to beat rush hour traffic, would race up the ramps to haul the paper all over Georgia.

    How I loved it so. Those were the heady days of journalism in Atlanta.

    But when I went there on April 23, there were no trucks. No people. No bustle. Dead silence. Eerie silence, the kind that gives me the willies. The docks were starkly bare, no hint that a great newspaper once was dispatched every single day from this place to households all over Georgia. I drove several times from one end to the other along the docks, looking for any stir of life. Just when I was about to give up, I saw a man in brown shorts and white T-shirt emerge from a doorway. He was rolling an empty handcart. Yes, he said, he knew about the racks, and I followed him into a cavernous warehouse. We found the one with my name on it and he helped me load it in my pickup. He said he was 42 years old and his job would end next week. He said I was lucky that I saw him, because all the other people in shipping and receiving had been let go that morning.

    Back in my pickup, I sat there. The memories of how it once was flooded up again. The wry thought came to me that thirty years ago, I would not dared have parked here. If I had, someone from off the loading docks would have come charging at me, yelling at me to get the hell out of there because I blocked the trucks from getting out. You did not get in the way of those trucks. Thirty years ago at 4 p.m., though, I most likely would have been sitting in the sixth floor Atlanta Journal newsroom. While the bellowing trucks would be departing from the docks, we reporters and editors on the Journal staff would be winding down, relaxing a little for the first time after meeting tight deadlines and writing amazingly solid stories. Some of the staff would be heading home. Others of us would be heading down Fairlie Street to Emile’s for afternoon libations and perhaps a little joshing with the federal prosecutors and clerks and judges coming over from the Court House to sip their after-work cocktails. Back in the newspaper building, in the eighth floor Constitution newsroom, reporters and editors would be deciding what to run in the next morning’s paper and maybe figuring out how to follow up on the stories that the Journal beat them on. The Journal and Constitution hated each other then — a deep, healthy hatred that was a beautiful thing. (The first time in history when the Constitution out-circulated the Journal was on Aug. 17, 1977, when the morning rag reported Elvis Presley’s death. I never forgave Elvis for dying on Constitution time.)

    With the old AJC street vending rack securely tied down in my pickup, and me wondering what I would tell my wife when I brought it home, I headed up the same ramp on which countless trucks bearing countless newspapers had departed daily over the decades for towns and cities all over Georgia. As I turned onto Spring Street, looming in front of me was the old Omni parking lot, now the parking place for CNN and Phillips Arena. That old parking lot also brought back a ton of memories. Many of us AJC employees parked there in the 1970s. At that time, I often worked on Saturday nights in the newsroom. During the long, late Saturday shifts, I often wandered over to the Sports Department and hung out there with the sportswriters, who were some of the best writers on the paper. Frank Hyland. Darrell Simmons. David Davidson and on and on. One of the sports editors was Lewis Grizzard, who loved to shoot the breeze. Grizzard and the others accorded me one of my greatest honors — they invited me out to the parking lot with them in the wee hours of Sunday morning, after the Sunday paper had been put to bed. In the parking lot, we pulled folding lawn chairs and beer-filled coolers out of our car trunks. We formed a circle and sat there and talked and sipped and ribbed each other until the sun came up. Grizzard usually set the tone.

    Several years ago, a writer from a New York publication called me and said she was doing a story on Grizzard. She said she had heard about those early Sunday morning sessions in the parking lot and wanted to know what we talked about. “Did you discuss the day’s events?” she asked. “Did you talk about how stories were edited? Did you talk about the great players?”

    I replied: “Look, ma’am. These were a bunch of sports writers. They weren’t trying to solve the world’s  great mathematical puzzles or find the meaning of life. About the only serious discussion they ever had, I remember, was whether Pabst Blue Ribbon made you fart worse than Miller High Life. It got very heated. Two guys nearly got in a fight over it.”

    ###
    Charles Seabrook

    Charles Seabrook

    A South Carolina native, Charles Seabrook has been a long-time environmental writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. His books include "Cumberland Island: Strong Women, Wild Horses" and "Red Clay, Pink Cadillacs and White Gold: Georgia’s Kaolin Chalk Wars." A resident of Decatur, Georgia, Seabrook also was one of the first reporters in the world to write about the mysterious disease that would soon be known as AIDS. He has written extensively on global warming, air and water pollution, and songbird decline.

     

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    • http://www.theblacksheartimes.com Robert M Williams Jr

      Great piece, Charles. You are right. That whole situation is sad. One day … one day … people will understand, with despair, what we’re losing with the decline of great metro newspapers. By then, unfortunately, it will probably be too late. Let’s hope for enlightenment somehow, someway.

    • Monica Smith

      The papers did not decline. These purveyors of information, like so many others, were deprived of revenue in the interest of controlling the flow of information. The FOIA, together with universal suffrage and equal rights guarantees presented too great a challenge to the traditional elite and had to be brought under control. “Not enough money” turned out to be a convenient shield behind which to hide the deprivation.

      But, journalism does have to share some of the blame. Somehow, “objectivity” got perverted into reporting what happened in terms of who it happened to, when and how come, instead of who done it. In the effort to distance the subjective perspective of the reporter, the agents of events (subjects) were left out. As a result, we have a whole lot of inanimate objects determining our fate. Drivers don’t collide; “cars crash.” People don’t die; relatives “lose their loved ones.” People aren’t fired for no good reason; people “lose their jobs.” Teachers don’t spout nonsense; students “fail” and schools “don’t measure up.” Citizens don’t elect representatives; politicians “win or lose.”

      The false attribution of agency is a recognized logical fallacy. That it’s so pervasive is probably because it’s a convenient way to evade responsibility for error and bad behavior. It’s “blame the victim” on a grand scale. It also “works” the other way around when credit is erroneously assigned, as when the President is credited with passing legislation he only signed. The Congress prefers it. It allows them to say, “don’t blame us if the law is a dud.”

      Btw, it seems that maintenance and routine re-investment in facilities and plants is not calculated as economic growth and development. I’m presuming that economists doing analysis in Europe and the U.S. are using the same standards. So, that the finding, in Germany, that a reduced work week resulted in an increase in residential improvements and rehabilitation is being reported as growth in the shadow or underground economy seems significant. At least in Europe the subject is being considered. There’s only one academic economist in the U.S. who’s been looking at the U.S. underground or black market and the latest update of his data was in 2005. Economists have long left out of their calculations what they can’t easily count.

    • http://www.littlewallaby.com Frank Povah

      Australia instituted a GST partly to offset the black economy. It partly worked, though it created another one.

    • http://www.littlewallaby.com Frank Povah

      PS: One day I shall write 0f life on the composing floor and the decline of relations between comps and journos.

    • Janet Ward

      Great piece, Charlie. I haven’t looked at an AJC for months now. It’s just an awful paper, ruined by arrogant people who have no idea what journalism means.

      I, too, remember those heady days. All The President’s Men started it, I believe. Journalism became the go-to career for young, idealistic people who honestly believed they could change the world.

      Newspaper people, real newspaper people not the bean-counters who currently hold sway, are the most interesting, engaged people I know. We’ve talked about having a wake at Manuel’s. Someone should plan it.

      • http://leslieevanscreative.com Lee Leslie

        Janet:
        Your comment has stuck with me all day.
        You are right that the current paper is “awful” by the standard of the glory days, and maybe it was “ruined arrogance and people who have no idea what journalism means,” but I feel that characterization may be a wee bit unfair.
        I have no ambition or qualification to be an apologist for the AJC or Cox, but I seem to remember dozens of experiments, redesigns, research, initiatives, management and newsroom shuffles, etc. over more than a decade as local display advertising disappeared, classified moved to Craig’s List, costs went up and technology changed. This suggests to me that Cox was pretty open to trying things (turned out, many were the wrong things) and throwing money at the problems. I also seem to remember this as an industry issue.
        There’s little question that Cox was distracted by cable, broadcast and internet profit centers, acquisitions and stock price. That Cox lobbied to preserve turf and neglected staying relevant or modernizing core businesses in a timely way. That, in my opinion, was not only arrogant, but dumb.
        I suppose that instead of compromising journalism, offering early retirements (pretty honorable by today’s corporate standards), cutting back and the moving to Dunwoody, they could have just shut down the paper -- but my takeaway is that they were trying to save what was left of the AJC with the hope they could find a way to a better future. I hope they are. Since they stopped hemorrhaging money and are beginning to make some, they are also beginning to open their check book for “real newspaper” people again. Time will tell, but if we want a return to greatness, please buy a paper.
        Janet, don’t take me wrong. I mourn for what has happened to the paper and its affect on the lives of so many who I love who had their careers and lives changed so abruptly. I worry for the loss of professional journalism and the damage that will be done to our republic.
        You may be right, but I also blame four decades of failure to enforce antitrust laws and the Wall Street mentality that has infected every business in our land (subversion of truth, television in general, survivor shows and Fox News in specific, the internets, George Bush, Nancy Grace, etc). Change sucks. And it is going around.

    • Jack

      wonderfully written, charlie, although i hardly share your affection for 72 Marietta. but as for those late-Saturday night choir practices in the parking lot, well, for what it’s worth…i’m a PBR guy.

    • Tom Pain

      Newspapers failed because of monopolist business practices. The ajc had a monopoly of regional display advertising for about century. The internet blew that model up. The reason consumers don’t care that the old journalistic lions are dying, though, is because of biased reporting and editorials. The ajc realized this too late, of course. Recognizing the importance of building readership in the conservative Republican northern suburbs, they hired a too-little, too-late milquetoast conservative editorialist and sent Cynthia Tucker packing to DC. Sorry, guys, you should have made this “business decision” 10 or 20 years ago. Whether it would have helped or not, I don’t know.

      Finally, the remaining newspapers will fail because their readership has passed them by in terms of intellectual sophistication. The middle class in this country now are highly educated professionals who are being spoon fed information by poorly educated journalists. I understand that once highly paid journalists cannot find work in other professions, particularly ones that pay well. They should question the value of their education and experience and wonder whether or not their training suits the expectations of their middle-class, professional readership.

      The journalists, too, rely upon “narratives” to artificially superimpose sympathetic and villainous archetypes into their work. Journalists collect facts and hammer them into a story that suits a template, perhaps not strictly speaking political bias, but certainly one where there is a sympathetic “victim” to draw a particular reaction from a reader. Sophisticated readers see this for what it is, an attempt to distort facts and manipulate them.

      Good luck in your future endeavors.

      • http://www.littlewallaby.com Frank Povah

        “…their readership has passed them by in terms of intellectual sophistication. The middle class … are highly educated professionals who are being spoon fed information by poorly educated journalists. …once highly paid journalists cannot find work in other professions, particularly ones that pay well. They should question the value of their education and experience and wonder whether or not their training suits the expectations of their middle-class, professional readership.

        I think you’re being unfair, Tom.

        May I suggest that your “middle class”, taken as a whole and speaking generally, are neither intellectually sophisticated nor skilled in literacy – reading or writing. This is one of the major reasons that newspapers, and other publications that require actual reading, are in decline. Television and its symbiotic companion, advertising, have over the past 50 years reduced the attention span of the average adult to something less than 10 minutes, with dire consequences for the printed word.

        The average magazine reader spends a little less than 90 seconds flipping through the pages. Hence the increasing use of photographs and captions. Your “blockbuster novel” no longer has descriptive passages, chapters are just a few paragraphs long and

        * * *

        has become a literary device, replacing background and description.

        Your middle class may be highly educated, but only narrowly so – the broad general education has gone by the board and knowledge for knowledge’s sake has gone with it. This is mirrored in that employers of journalists now favor a degree over life experience – disastrous for all concerned.

        The new breed of newspaper publisher is less interested in information than it is in sensation and the same applies to all forms of news dissemination. Even the weather reports have to be sensationalized; if there’s no hurricanes then a fog with a visibility limit of 9 miles must suffice.

        If intellectual sophistication existed in the broader middle class I’d suggest that this would not be so. Newspapers would change, but they would still do what they once did – fill the gaps in the narratives and reveal the faces behind the masks. Intellectual sophistication does not call straightforward reporting of events “liberal”.

        Don’t talk to the journos about lousy reporting – not the real ones – talk to the grey-suited, grey-minded bastards who own the newspapers.

    • quincy dee

      Anyone who believes that journalists can decide for themselves what they write and how their publication should be managed has obviously never worked as one. Journalists have never -- could never -- run a publication into the ground. Sadly, the quality of journalists and journalism altogether at AJC has indeed declined over the past years. Spelling, grammar and punctuation are atrocious and staff copy editors must have been eliminated decades ago. But this situation can only be blamed on the people who hire them. Journalists have never been paid enough, but the trend today is quite clearly to hire the least qualified because one can get away with paying them less. Good journalists are turned away if unwilling to work for close to minimum wage!

    • http://www.dougmonroe.com Doug Monroe

      Beautiful heart-breaker, Charlie. When I started it, I thought you might finally be going there to clean off your old desk. I had just finished reading a NY Times Sunday Magazine piece about a Politico reporter with stuff stacked on his desk and I immediately thought of you. Hope you’re well. Some great comments here, too. I agree with Janet. A few years before “All the President’s Men,” there were only seven people majoring in news-editorial in the J-school at UGA. I also agree with Jack: PBR would never have caused the disruption of Miller.

    • Don O’Briant

      Newspaper people drank? I’m shocked! Shocked!
      That was a great piece, Charlie. It brought back a lot of memories — most of them good. It’s going to be hard to explain to my grandchildren what a great time that was and the joy of working for a newspaper. The first thing they’re going to ask is, “Grandpa, what is a newspaper?”

    • http://leslieevanscreative.com Lee Leslie

      Charlie: Loved this story and truly miss PBR in the steel cans.

    • quincy dee

      While All the President’s Men may have inspired more to study J at UGA only a couple of years before, we J-school students at GSU (at the time GSC) were already legions -- well, not quite legions, but relatively many, many more compared with UGA. We may have had an ugly urban campus but we were right in the middle of it all. The news literally unfolded in front of our eyes and we seized it with both hands and ran wiht it!

    • Joey Ledford

      Great piece, Charlie. Since I still work downtown, I often pass 72 Marietta and wonder what, if anything, will become of it. Like Jack, I don’t love the building, but I did love most of the people who worked there. For a long time, we produced a wonderful product that was engaging to read. I won’t get into what happened — others have tried to explain it — so there is really nothing left but to remember the good times and forget the bad. Don is right that it won’t be too long before young people won’t have much of an understanding of what we did there, and that might be sadder than the ghosts that now inhabit 72 Marietta.

    • Cliff Green

      Well said, my old friend.
      I join Don in being shocked about the drinking. I, for one, drank only unsweetened iced tea during many of those years. I also read the Bible during lunch hour.

      • Charles Seabrook

        Br’er Green, I think they renamed that unsweet tea George Dickel.

    • Chrys

      Those were the days my friend.

    • Elaine Manross

      Charles,

      Wonderfully written and so true! It’s sad to see the AJC among others (Rich’s, etc.) are gone from our downtown area. A lot of those buildings will live on in my memories if no where else. All the people that use to work and shop in the Marietta, Forsythe, and Luckie Street area, wonderful restaurants…….all gone.
      To Joey Ledford, our family thinks you are a wonderful man and reporter for the stories and support you gave us in the DUI death of our granddaughter Tiffani Coke in November 1999 and the subsequent trial of her Dad.
      The printed journalists must survive and newspapers must survive, no internet news for me!

      • Joey Ledford

        Thank you for your kind words! They are greatly appreciated.

        • Elaine Manross

          Are you still in journalism? Where are you working now?

    • Myra Blackmon

      Thanks, Charles for a great reflection. I’m sitting in China where my news comes from the Internet or CNN (usually in meaningless snippets), the New York Times is blocked by the government and the China Daily is left on my door handle every day.

      I grew up on the Journal, going through it many days with my grandfather who had an opinion or an idea about everything in it. That newspaper and my grandfather taught me more than I learned in years of school! I had already been missing the old AJC when they quit bringing it to Athens. The new one is pablum. My experience here makes me long for the glory days even more.

    • A.B. Albritton

      Charlie:
      Next time you go downtown, drive that pickup right up on the sidewalk on Marietta Street and stand between the Ralph and Celestine lamposts and take a bow.

    • John Futch

      Thanks for the memories, Charlie. There were probably still a few dents I left behind in the walls or some file cabinets.

      You’ll always be a special part of that time.

      John
      Long Beach, California

    • Billy Mallard

      Great story, Charlie, thanks for stirring the memories.

      We were a Consti family, so I guess I read of Elvis’s passing there. (You know that that story earned Mollie Ivins one of her few NY Times front-page bylines.)

      By the time I did my tour of duty on Marietta Street, the Journal and Consti had merged newsrooms but still pretended to be separate papers -- different morning and evening mastheads and, admittedly, separate editorial boards. But I do remember those trucks. Sure had to steer clear of them if taking a company car out on assignment.

      Mighty sad.

      Oh, and Tiger beer (Singapore) has both those American brands beat.

    • johnny

      It started downhill when Kovach left (got Sent, actually) and nopw it simply mirrors USA Tosday. Too bad.

      --johnny

    • http://AtlantaDailyIntelligencer.blogspot.com Bill Hendrick

      It wasn’t bad management, bad reporting, too much or too little drinking…none of those things. You can sum it up in two words: Sarah Palin.

      The people got dumb. Advertisers realized that. They stopped advertising when readers stopped buying. It has happened everywhere.

      I spent 29.7 years there. I, too, had pangs of emotion, and a lump rose in my throat the last time I drove by the place. We older folks who retired lived through the salad days. It was great. I loved it, especially the yelling and arguing with editors, the fighting for the right to do stories. And I kept tequila in my desk, not PBR, until someone discovered my hiding place.

      Remember when a certain managing editor posted a note on the bulletin board near the front elevators, encouraging people to lighten up by having a beer or two at lunch?

      Great words, Charlie, as always. It’s sad that it all had to end. But the industry has gone the way of steel and textiles and I don’t believe in resurrection. All in all, even up to the very last day when my electronic key card was taken from my hand, I have to say that I loved working there.

      Challie, I miss you. See you at the next 25-year-old club gala.

      Bill, your teammate for five years on the science team. You da man!

    • http://www.ellisstrategy.com Billie Brown

      Love this piece and the comments. I have a 72 Marietta story, too. Way way back (before Bill Hendrick or Dallas Lee came to AP), 72 Marietta’s predecessor also housed the AP, and stories were transmitted from floor to floor by pneumatic tube. The move to 72 Marietta was a huge and emotional transition for AJC, and they kicked us out; we had to find another home (30 Pryor St., I believe).

      My husband, Joe Brown, worked on the editorial side with Reg Murphy, then AJC editor. When Reg was kidnapped, Joe was out of town on business.

      My phone rang at 4:30 a.m. I was 3 months pregnant and not sleeping well, so I picked up immediately.

      My editor, Jim Laxson, barked, “Reg Murphy’s been kidnapped. Get in here as fast as you can.”

      Not yet visibly pregnant, I threw on regular clothes and hied myself to what was then called “the new building” — 72 Marietta. I was quickly set up in the lobby of the building with the only pay telephone on that floor. Throughout the day, other reporters began drifting in — from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Sacramento Bee — you name it. It was a big story because of the Patty Hearst kidnaping.

      After a long day I dragged myself home and slept restlessly. As I got ready to return to 72 Marietta for another long and unpredictable stint, I pondered what to wear and was inspired. Remembering the single pay phone in the lobby, I selected a maternity top to go over my navy skirt — and commandeered the only available way to transmit news from the scene.

      No cellphones in those days, children, and no gentleman was rude enough to precede a pregnant lady.

      As you journalists all doubtless recall, the $500k in ransom money, transported by the sports editor who later was promoted to editor, came from next door — the Federal Reserve was 72 Marietta’s neighbor back then.

      • http://marshamarksonline.com Marsha Marks

        Charlie — great story. My dad retired from the AP after 53 years and my father-in-law worked in the composing room of the AJC so I do have some ties there. I can remember my visits to the news room and couldn’t believe that everybody wasn’t permanently deaf from listening to teletype machines all day.

        Billie — Jim Laxson was my dad and I can vividly remember how much of our life was dictated by what was happening in the world. As a photo editor and news editor it was his job to cover just about anything that came along — I can remember, in particular, the Cuban Missile Crisis which he was covering in Miami. My brother was 6 months old and it was his first Christmas — Jim was able to get home just for the day. I remember Selma and many other situations that I didn’t realize at the time were critical in our history. I really had a personal view of history in the making — and daddy told some great stories about it all.

        It’s really sad that now it’s all about the ratings rather than the story.

        • http://www.ellisstrategy.com Billie Brown

          Marsha,
          Your dad was so good to me at AP. When he found out I was joining the Catholic Church he became one of my mentors and gave me a gift, the Baltimore Catechism, when I was baptized!

          • http://marshamarksonline.com Marsha Marks

            Hey Billie — thank you for sharing that little tidbit. Jim Laxson was a special man and I miss him every day.
            I subscribe to “Like the Dew” on Facebook and normally just scan the articles. Don’t know why this one caught my eye — it was just a fluke that I happened to read the entire article as well as the blog and was thrilled to see your comment. I think Daddy would be rolling over in his grave if he could see the state of journalism today. Thanks again for the reply.

    • mike williams

      Thanks, Charlie. In 20 years I never actually worked in the building, always being off in a remote bureau, but I still remember the feeling of pride when I visited, walking up the street from the MARTA station to that building. It really made me proud: this is our city and what we do matters. The building was workaday, full of its own mysteries and dimly-glimpsed tidal forces that an outsider like me never got privy to. I’m sure for guys like you the musty smells, the hum of the fluorescent lights, the echoes in the dim stairways, the exhausted dawns after an all-night shift, the thousand unenthusiastic trips through the line at the Deadline Diner, are all things that will never leave you. Your image of those empty loading docks and the contrast with the bustle of 30 years ago says it all. It was grand while it lasted, and I guess we were lucky to get to work there as long as we did. It was the most fun job I could ever imagine, and your piece brings back a lot of the feel of it.

    • Kathy Hogan Trocheck

      Wonderful piece, Charlie. Thanks for reminding us that it’s the people, not the institution, that we loved. A couple points. As a former AJC-er, and a 1976 grad of UGA’s Journalism school, I can tell you that most of the people who got into journalism at the same time I did were young and idealistic and certain that we would change the world for the better. Like cops and teachers, we were pretty certain that we would never make any money at our profession, but that didn’t matter, because we had a calling. And that calling was simply to report the news, as it happened. I think the ’70s and ’80s were the golden years of journalism, and then…it all went down the drain. Not because of any mysterious cabal of conspirators or idealogues…but because of advertising, which is, of course, how newspapers make money. Rich’s was for decades the AJC’s biggest display advertising client. Macy’s was probably second. When Macy’s subsumes Rich’s, there goes a big chunk of ad revenue. When Belk buys out Parisian, another chunk is gone. When automobile advertising--a huge part of the classifieds--disappears, because the American auto industry is on the ropes, that’s another giant hit. And then Craigslist--where you can advertise all sorts of things--for free--well, stick a fork in advertising revenue, ’cause it’s gone.

      I have great respect and empathy for the troops who are still in the trenches at the AJC. They are working under demoralizing conditions, yet I believe they must surely feel that love of journalism--that same calling, I felt all those years ago when I walked through the front door at 72 Marietta Street. God bless ‘em all, and keep ‘em. Because with the Sarah Palins of the world, we need journalism now, more than ever.

      • Minla

        As always, well said!

    • quincy dee

      Sadly, Sarah Palin was once a journalist -- or at least seems to be on the record as having majored in journalism. She doesn’t seem to have learned anything, though.

    • bob dart

      thanks charlie,
      i worked at that building from 1975 to 1983 when i went to the washington bureau. i remember the competition between the old constitution (my paper) and the journal. we never ventured on each other’s floors. i didn’t even know the journal reporters, except for bill montgomery, and editors until the papers merged. i remember the tube that was used to send layouts to the pit and for a brief, terrifying time, i was a constitution make-up editor down there with the printers. after several stories were “jumped” to oblivion on my watch, jim minter mercifully made me a reporter rather than fire me. i still have my first ID for the building. i look like a terrorist with long hair and hippy wire-rims. we used to pick up our checks by the lobby and go to the bucket shop in underground atlanta for hamburgers. the lobby had several historic papers — one by jeff nesmith with the ultimate in localizing a story. “Man landed on the moon yesterday at 4 p.m. Atlanta time.” (i don’t know if that was the real time for all y’all copy editors). i worked at night for several years and went to the lucky street Y during my supper hour. straight out of “the front page,” frank wells and keeler mccartney would come in, hang up their coats and hats at about 9 a.m., and don them again when they left about 6 p.m. there were fifths in some of the desk drawers. when my children were born, i handed out cigars to all the men in the newsroom and they smoked them right then. eddie sears took a couple. i was there the night that jimmy carter was elected president and hal gulliver and bill shipp took a little cannon out and shot it to mark a democrat returning to the white house.
      too many memories. somebody should write a book.
      bob dart

    • J. Morgan Willis

      The AJC is no longer available in Athens, unless you run over to Kroger’s on an early Sunday morning to get the week-end edition. Local papers have tried to pick up the slack. Of course, technology says you can subscribe on-line. But there is nothing like picking up a paper and scanning it yourself.. Are journalism degrees now media degrees? Even now, my educated grands are not too interested in the printed page of news. Hats off to you old newspaper pros. Loved the story and all the comments.

    • Mark Silk

      Lovely piece, Charlie. I was a little later on the scene, and on an odd trajectory from academic life way north of the Mason-Dixon line. When it came to journalism, 72 Marietta Street was my Harvard and my Yale, and from my salad days there (1987-88) I’ll always remember that last bastion of Journal-ism, Herb Steely, giving us the late-morning business to get our copy in. My one big expose, on the troubles of the Carter Center, broke in the Journal--I could never understand why. Maybe for old times’ sake, like the dew. Whatever, thanks.

    • Amanda Miller Allen

      Charlie
      I just read your piece and you so captured how many of us feel about that old place, and the people who inhabited it. I’m still chuckling about Doug Monroe’s comment that he thought you were finally returning to clean off your desk. I remember the papers stacked so high around you it was impossible to tell if you were at your desk without walking back there and peering into the well. I was always amazed that you could put your hands on any piece of paper you needed within a few seconds. It was quite a filing system. Miss you.
      Amanda

    • Angie Terrell

      Thanks Charlie. I’ve always enjoyed your writing. Too bad newspapers got caught on that slippery slope. But there will always be good writers who care — I only hope we can find them and keep them writing. Reminds me of the Marvin Gaye song: “Makes me wanna holler…throw up both my hands.” Here’s to a brighter future!

    • Joe Dolman

      Charlie: Wonderful piece. I’ve only recently recovered from the 1972 move out of the Forsyth Street building. The original Journal newsroom at 72 Marietta had electric-orange carpets, wire tickers discreetly hidden away in a glass-enclosed room and windows that wouldn’t open. The place felt like a Richway store when we got there, and we worried a great deal about that. It’s a good thing we didn’t know what the future held. The whole industry is vanishing before our eyes--for reasons that Kathy Trocheck deftly outlined--and now the AJC has abandoned downtown for the northern arc of the Perimeter. I keep waiting for the upside to this transition. So far, I’m not seeing one.

    • Michele Ross

      Hi Charlie. What a great story. I of course have no knowledge of drinking in or out of the newsroom, but do still carry the scars from certain reporters scaring the rookie obit clerk by using the obit desk phone to call adult theatres and ask for specifics. Very specifics. And of course the Constitution beat the Journal with the whole Elvis thing. Just ask Tina Ansa, who had to come up with summaries for every Elvis movie in about twenty minutes. Go team. I also suggest we all meet at Manuel’s soon for further discussion. Michele Ross

    • Tom Baxter

      Think about old Henry Grady, standing out there by his lonesome. I’m thinking somebody should have organized some kind of ceremony for him.
      Great piece.

    • http://www.thisis50.com/ Fifty Cent

      I’ve seen a lot of suckas in my time -- but when it comes to old white men sitting around the Farlie lot, in downtown Atlanta, at 3 O’Clock in the morning slurpin down Malt Liquor …..that’s some freaky stuff…..you know what I mean? I used to read the paper. Back when they used to put my posse on the inside page every day. They don’t do that anymore. I don’t know about all the clogga crap out in the GWX or covering the ATL like the dew or women in pioneer dresses making arts and crafts as some joker goes on and on and on about it for two whole pages in the Living section. You call that a newspaper? You all act like the AJC was the bomb? You all need to leave these tired-ass recovery sessions alone now and move on down the road! This group therapy thang you all got going on -- is like a crack house on the southside ……….Ya all need to stop suckin’ on that pipe now and get off that stuff!

      • Charles Seabrook

        Hey, Fifty Cent. Sounds like you didn’t get the correct change.

        • http://www.thisis50.com/ Fifty Cent

          I got some change ………… change you can be sure to believe in …………….sucka !

    • http://patsydickey.com Patsy Dickey

      Durn it, Charlie, now you’ve made me cry with the rest of you although I never worked there. Don’t you know 72 Marietta Street is haunted, and the spirits are having a wonderful time even though they, too, weep. I remember sitting up with my dear mother-in-law, Maibelle Swift Dickey, the last night of her wonderful, generous, loving life at Piedmont. At the family’s request I put some facts about her on paper and called Eleanor Ringel (Cater) for help in getting her obit in the AJC. Eleanor said bring it on down. She was alone at her desk working (almost in the dark) when I arrived, hollow-eyed and weeping with my badly typed notes about Mom. Eleanor stood gave me a huge, comforting hug, took the notes and I left. Perhaps no one will ever know how touched I still am by this memory. Or what the paper meant to all of us. Your piece has stirred much thought and consideration. It’s a written testimony to a special kind of grace. Best to you, Patsy Dickey

    • http://www.saportareport.com Maria Saporta

      Charlie,
      So funny. I also bought a newspaper box and went down last week to pick it up. The first time I went, I had the exact same experience as you — no one was anywhere. Finally a security guard told me to return in the morning and to call security from a phone hidden in an aluminum box. So on Thursday morning, I went back determined to get my newspaper box.
      It took awhile to get in the shipping and receiving area, and then it took even longer to find someone, anyone who could help me get my box. I too was overwhelmed by a sense of loss, by great memories, by the ghosts, by the whispers of the beehive that used to swirl around 72 Marietta St. Now it’s a hollow building with silent presses.
      People ask me if I miss the AJC. My standard response is that I miss the AJC that was, not the AJC that is. But if truth be known, what I miss the most are the super-talented reporters and writers that I had the pleasure to work with over the course of nearly three decades. And that means you.
      Perhaps I’ll also put wine and spirits in my newspaper box, and then we can toast to the good old days.
      Maria

    • George Costanza

      All this “Sarah Palin” nonsense misses the point about why many won’t miss the AJC and other failing leftist rags. Where was the AJC in demanding that Barack Hussein Obama provide tax and academic records that every other president before him did? Nowhere. When previous candidates balked or failed to produce documents, like Kerry, the media howled in outrage until they buckled. And rightly so. What about Barack Hussein Obama’s numerous controversial statements and affiliations?. The AJC like so many others willfully put blinders on themselves and their readers about any controversy surrounding this president. A shameful dereliction of journalistic duty.

      I agree the failures of newspapers are business/advertising related. But another bottom line: your readers, especially those in Georgia’s preponderant conservative, affluent areas, simply do not trust the AJC and have not for a very long time. That is also a failed business decision. The AJC’s (lack of) coverage in the most recent presidential election was the last nail in the coffin for many. I think the owners recognized this and that’s reflected in their editorial management changes.

      I also note that the AJC is no longer in the top 25 highest circulation papers in the news reported today about circulation declines. I believe they used to be in the top 10? If they’ve fallen from the top 25, the circulation drops must be staggaring. If the declines are that much higher than their comparables — there has to be more to the story of why readers are so conspicuously abandoning this particular periodical. I believe it has a lot to do with a newspaper management (not just op-ed staff) that shot cannons and threw public parties when Democrats got elected.

      • Charles Seabrook

        So, what do you think about the Braves’ chances this year?

        • George Costanza

          You know, I used to be the assistant to the traveling secretary of the New York Yankees.

          • bob dart

            hal gulliver and bill shipp, the editors who shot the historic cannon, wrote on the editorial page, not in the news columns. when i was growing up in georgia in the 1950s, everyone was a democrat including my granddaddy, a tobacco farmer in jeff davis county, who supported racial segregation and subscribed to the atlanta constitution mainly to cuss ralph mcgill.

            • http://sites.google.com/site/robtlambauthor/ Bob Lamb

              Hey, Bob. I didn’t know you were from Jeff Davis County. I ownedTthe Jeff Davis County Ledger for five years, 1969 to 1973.
              What are you doing these days. Margaret told me she once ran into you in D.C.

            • bob dart

              cox closed it’s washington bureau a little over a year ago. i retired and now live on st. simons island. it was my maternal grandfather who was the jeff davis county tobacco farmer. his wife was a lamb, incidently. i grew up in glynn county.

    • http://jayknowsnetworking.com Jay Scott

      Charlie, thanks for sharing your memories of 72 Marietta. I’m shocked to learn that Mr. Hendrick had tequila at his desk, but also disappointed he never offered to share with me. I can’t add anything new to the many wonderful comments above, but I can remind folks of another milestone in AJC history. When the newsroom was renovated decades ago, everyone had to clean out desks and get rid of all the extraneous paper everywhere. A certain reporter seemingly saved every news release, every notebook, every scrap of paper that he ever read. He was forced to throw away countless trashbins full of paper. As a result, we’ve all been deprived of the makings of what could have been the future Charles Seabrook Research Library. Charlie, I know you’ll take this in the spirit it was intended. We miss you and many other AJCers who have left the fold. See you at Neuvo, Second Life gatherings, Manuel’s or wherever our paths cross.

      • Charles Seabrook

        Jay, actually I sold the Seabrook archives to Georgia Power Co. They burned all my papers in a power plant and made enough electricity to last Georgia for two years. So, see there.

    • http://www.wwediting.com Tom Oder

      Scrapiron — Great piece. One correction. Elvis died on Journal first edition deadline. Smack on it. We crammed it in on the bottom of the front to make deadline. In hindsight, we should have held the paper and torn up the front. The Con’s advantage was they had all day to work with it. You should tell the world about your great Bert Lance caper.

      • Charles Seabrook

        Tom, I’m all shook up. Thank you very much.

    • http://www.tracythompson.com tracy thompson

      I, too, am appalled to learn that drinking went on in that newsroom at one point in the past. As for me, I spent my lunch hours with Cliff in his Bible study group. The acquisition and refinement of my drinking skills during my tenure at the AJC is purely coincidental.

      On a serious note: I miss the party, but the party’s been over for quite some time. Just be glad we were all there, and think about all the millions of people who live their lives never having had the kind of fun we did. And we got paid for it! (Sort of.)

    • Chuck Eckstein

      Thanks to Kathy and others for noting there are still good people doing good things at today’s AJC, both in print and online.
      Oh, and Charlie, when you could find Stroh’s, it gave PBR a good run for its money in the science project category.

      • Charles Seabrook

        Chuck, we used to use Stroh’s to treat our dogs for tick bites.

    • http://www.littlewallaby.com Frank Povah

      Name me one “leftist” mainstream newspaper -- or any other news outlet -- in the USA.

    • Steve Duff

      Charles great piece. I was also back there last Friday doing some work and I had just an empty feeling. But it hasn’t been the same since the presses where shut down in Dec of 08.

    • Kay Powell

      Glad I wasn’t there to write the obit for 72 Marietta St. I left at the right time and miss the people, not the building, and their once great reporting and writing.

    • http://serendipity-kate.blogspot.com/ Kate McNally

      Like many people, I grew up on the Journal. I loved it, and I was proud of it. I trusted it. I miss it.

      I wonder what’s coming when we don’t have unbiased journalists to turn to when we want to know what’s going on. From here in Belgium, it’s even harder…

      I loved this story, though. I could feel the ghosts, hear the presses, smell the exhaust of those trucks.

    • http://www.krmjazz.com Vernon Carne

      I remember when we moved from the Forsyth building to 72 Marietta St. It was nice to have a/c rather than the old crank windows. As far as the Elvis thing, all I know is that I did a great colored dye rendering of Elvis on his death. I think that is really what pushed the Consti past the Jrnl. You are right though. The two papers were very competitive. I clearly remember when Tom Wood stood on a chair (or something) and informed us that the two papers were going to merge into one big happy family and that the Jrnl and Consti were not the enemy. As you know it took a while to get past the “us and them” mentality. I still think of myself as a Consti man. I didn’t realize you and I retired the same year. I retired May 1, 2005 after 33+ years. We got out just in time to have nothing but good memories (mostly) of THE NEWSPAPER! Great article. I’m saving it with my other AJC memorabilia.

    • Garrie Butts

      Charlie,

      That was a great article!! I wish I had bought a paper rack now, at the time I didn’t know what I would do with one. The new office in Dunwoody is nice, however after working at 72 Marietta St for almost 35 years, the 16th of April (my move to 223 date) was a very sad day for me . I also remember the afternoons and evenings at Slicers, Mimmie’s and even the Gas Light Lounge.

      Chuck is right, there are still some very good people at the AJC. The AJC is my second family, I’ve spent almost as much time there as I have with my family. I hope that somehow that those still here can somehow help turn the business around.

      A lot of those former AJC employees with INK in their blood like Owen Olson, Buddy Ward, and Lewis Gizzard is still alive would be sadden by the decline of the Newspaper Industry.

    • Cindy Rood Robinson

      My father, Ferguson E. Rood was the VP of Advertising until his retirement in 1986. I loved getting dressed up (you did that when going downtown back then) and with my mom and sisters would visit him and then have lunch at Rich’s. I always felt so important walking through that building and smelling the ink of the papers. No matter how many times I go I always loved going to see where the papers were being printed and rolling through the plant.
      Thank you so much for letting me see that beautiful building which hold so many wonderful memories.

      Cindy R. Robinson

    • Charmagne Helton

      Charlie ! You are the greatest! Thank you for this article. I am dying laughing and crying at the same time. I’m thinking about your desk right now buried under a Mt. Everest of paper stacks. We should all meet in the parking lot and talk about beer again one of these days.

      Charmagne

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