When we were friend of the people we served

Work is a big part of who we are. Once we’re out of school, our place of employment is where we spend a large majority of our waking hours. Whether those hours lean good or bad has a huge impact. Since graduating college over 30 years ago, I have had no less than 10 fulltime employers. Some better than others.

I didn’t work that hard to get my first job. I had done a work-study program my senior year of high school at a weekly newspaper. I held on to that job, working part-time during breaks and some weekends, through college. I had wanted to be a journalist. All the President’s Men came out when I was 11 and from that point on, I wanted to be in newspapers!

Editing press releases, paste-up (back when cut and paste was an actual thing) and covering local meetings and events was all part of my job. My first by-lines! When college graduation neared, I was offered a position in advertising sales. I gave up my dream of being a journalist for the promise of more money, but the newspaper business from all angles would continue to be a passion.

My dad always urged me to apply for a position at The Record, the county’s premiere daily. It had a reputation of being a good employer. They took care of their people, and no one ever seemed to leave. When I got that job after less than two years in the full-time workforce, my dad said I was “set for life.” He couldn’t have been more right.

I only stayed for five years, but the impact of that place follows me today. No place like it ever since. Yes, I met my late husband there. And yes, my boyfriend is also a former co-worker with whom I reconnected a few years ago. But it was more than that; more than my personal experience. I don’t know what it was. Maybe because of a hiring boom in the mid to late 80s so many of us were just starting our careers. We grew up there together. We watched each other manage relationships, growing pains, and growing families.

There were lots of characters and amazing shenanigans – so many stories and so many laughs. There were tenacious and creative people doing admirable jobs in all departments giving the paper the great reputation it had to those on the outside.  We were also close to the news developing in the world around us at a time the paper considered itself “friend of the people it served”.

The building that was the paper’s headquarters was torn down this week. 150 River Street in Hackensack, New Jersey. The building had been vacant since staff had been moved to another location in a corporate park almost a decade ago. Most of the people I still knew working for the company were laid off after Gannett purchased it in 2016. The building continued to stand as a monument to our past. Until now.

I belong to two “Record” groups on FaceBook. One that is more advertising staff and another that is more editorial (I came to know many of the editorial staff through my late husband). The feelings are the same.  Everyone is reflecting on their years there, both in terms of the meaningful relationships we created with each other to the roles we played in the newspaper business. As we mourn the loss of a building where we all once congregated, we are really mourning the passage of time.

The changing landscape has forced everyone to look more closely at the decline of the newspaper industry (particularly in the current political environment), but it is also requiring everyone to simply look at their own mortality and a time we long for, when maybe business and pleasure mixed. I feel like my parents reminiscing about “simpler times.” But here we are. And that work will forever be a big part of who I am. A building still standing forever in my memories.

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The Bergen Record, Hackensack and Wayne, New Jersey. April 1989 – August 1994.

For another perspective: Recalling my days at The Record building on River Street, by Virginia Rohan. NorthJersey.com and The Record.

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