Wednesday, October 05, 2005

You Can Never Leave ...

I used to work at the Chicago Tribune. I used to refer to it as "The Hotel California of Journalism," as in "You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave."

Still, I met some amazing people during my Tribune tenure. That was proven to me again today.

My friend Linda wasn't always a friend. She was an instructor of mine at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She taught my Introduction to Non-fiction Writing class. She gave my first assignment for her an A+ and her only comment was "Absolutely great!" Linda has excellent taste, no?!

As is the case with many of the professional relationships in my life, Linda became a friend. (I've been very lucky that way.) I've known her now for something like 18 years. She's been helping students all that time.

She's teaching a Writing for the Media class this semester and asked me if I could help her set up some face-to-face interviews with some professional writer types. (Linda and I share Tribune Alumni status, but I've been there more recently than her.) "They must have face-to-face interviews so they experience the agony of face-to-face anxiety," she wrote in her e-mail request. Under those impeccable outfits from Mark Shale lies a devious soul. I could almost hear the evil chortle.

So today I fired off an e-mail to a healthy handful of writers and editors there. Some of whom I'm in touch with regularly. Some of whom I haven't spoken with in years.

I was very pleased that many of them were quick to reply that they'd be happy to help.

All life's experiences become part of who you are. Some, though, I believe, stay with you in stronger ways. My five years at the Tribune are vivid, eight years later. Every time I step back into the 5th-floor newsroom, the home of the various features sections, it feels as though I never left.

So The Eagles were right: You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. Not really.

But that's a good thing, when the people you've left behind are still right there, willing to lend a hand.

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