As many News Lincoln County readers know, The Oregonian, as good a newspaper it is, has succumbed to the transformation of journalism in this new century. Because news travels faster than a paperboy on a bike, The Oregonian has decided to shift its emphasis to the internet version of its publication, along with a lot of ancillary advertising and promotional products that I’m sure we’ll all be exposed to sooner or later.
But suffice it to say that a long gradual trickle of laid off news reporters finally swelled to a torrent this week and a major share of what was left in the newsroom was laid off as well. Among them our own admired, and for those who pay close attention to what’s going on, cherished Oregon Coast beat reporter Lori Tobias. The public loved and still loves here clear, direct reporting that cuts to the chase of what matters – whether a story about public or private agencies gone rogue, or about the human drama and joys of simply being alive – alive on the Oregon Coast.
Lori Tobias says she’s embarking on what she really wanted to do in the first place: to be a writer, a storyteller, a publisher of books. Shorter versions of life stories found in newspapers or even in today’s internet websites don’t give Lori the intellectual and empathetic real estate she needs in order for her wonderfully thorough stories to exquisitely unfold for appreciative readers.
And so she begins – this inaugural offering to her Oregonian fans who although loved and respected her reporting in The Oregonian, will commence this day a new journey with her toward her new writing adventure – which begins now…
Fire in The Hole
The news posted on a Thursday morning on a sunny day in June. A day when we had almost the whole of summer ahead, and it was promising to be a beaut. It was not the kind of day you expect bad news. But there it was, whomp, ambush. We were to learn our fate at The Oregonian by the end of the day. But Friday came and I still didn’t know a damned thing. Except that my stomach had been doing the Tilt-A-Whirl thing for a full day – even though I was convinced I’d be OK, safe as we called it. If I needed proof, why it was right there on A1. Centerpiece, even. I went to the gym. Did my hammies, quads and then because I couldn’t bear 30 long minutes on the treadmill, I ran a quick mile around the track. I came home certain I’d find that magic message giving the all clear. But not a word. I called my editor. He didn’t know, either. But he was safe. Then he started on the list of those who weren’t, and I knew. I knew. I just wasn’t believing it yet. It was 10 by the time I picked up the phone to call the big boss.
And what do you know, he was just about to call me.
I thought maybe that boded well.
It did not.
I’m afraid the news is not good, he said.
So there it was. He told me the particulars. I said I understood. (It was a lie. I didn’t and I don’t.)
And so today is that day. I know it’s an end. I know it’s a beginning. No, the truth is, I don’t know what the hell it is.
It’s nine years since I signed on as a correspondent to cover the coast for The Oregonian. Seven and a half years since I earned the right to put Staff Writer by my name. I never wanted to be a reporter. I wanted a column. Features. But I got what I got and I came around to thinking I had the best writing gig on the planet (OK, short of making gobs of money publishing books). It was also one hell of a dark beat. Someone was always dying. Crashes. Falls. Murders. Suicides. Murder and Suicide. Drownings. Capsizings. Gees, there were a lot of capsizings. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look out over that winter ocean, see the city of lights that is the crab fleet and not worry, not feel that squeeze in my gut and wonder not if, but when.
But if many of the mileposts along Highway 101 are defined for me by tragedy, so too are they reminders that I have been blessed with having the privilege of working in the most amazing setting, a place where life is authentic and the landscape so stunningly beautiful, all these years later, it can still take my breath away.
And it wasn’t all deep and dark. Sometimes it was just scary. Like the time the bar pilots persuaded me to repel out of their helicopter. I awoke hours later with the worst spins ever. I figured it was a brain tumor. Turned out it was just plain old vertigo – and it plagues me to this day.
There were some rocking fun times, too. Like the day I traveled north for a profile on my favorite sheriff and he asked, “Want to go blow up some cars?” How do you say no to that? And so I joined a bunch of men from the FBI and the OSP in the woods. Just me and the guys. I let the sheriff hold the remote and when it came time to do the “fire in the hole” thing three times, I deferred to the FBI agent. Guys like yelling that stuff. Then I pushed the red button and ducked. I’ve always been such a chicken.
So no, it was not all gloom and doom and heartbreak. Once in a while I got to spend my day in the woods with a bunch of guys … and explosives.
Like I said, it was the best writing gig in the world.
And it’s not over.
It’s not the end. And it’s not the beginning.
It’s to be