Friday is my last day of work before retiring from the Daily Report and ALM. I leave with a heart full of gratitude for the work and the people—those inside our virtual global newsroom and those we cover.
Please send news tips to my erstwhile colleagues at the Daily Report: managing editor Everett Catts, litigation reporter Cedra Mayfield, business of law and On the Move reporter Jacob Polacheck, breaking news reporter Mason Lawlor. The email addresses are first initial last name @alm.com.
It’s been 15 years since I started at the Daily Report as kind of a third act. My daughters Ansley and Sydney were both in high school and soon to be in college. I’d been doing occasional freelance writing—mostly for Georgia Trend magazine, some for BusinessWeek and and a tiny bit for the New York Times—and taking an extended maternity leave—Act II—for 18 years. How long does it take to raise a child, really? And when one parent is a sportswriter traveling and working long days, nights and weekends and the other is a news reporter working 9 a.m. until … whatever it takes, to borrow a line from a favorite movie title, “Something’s Gotta Give.” I got to be that something, and I wouldn’t trade a minute of it for anything now.
That brings me to Act I. My husband and I met in the elevator at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution 40 years ago as we were both leaving the newsroom at 2 a.m. after a typical workday. He’d been in Chicago covering an afternoon Braves game, and I’d been covering a daylong Georgia Board of Regents meeting and writing a story for the next edition. He’d just stopped by to pick up his mail and a copy of the paper.
When I stepped into the elevator, I thought I was the last to leave. The doors were closing when suddenly a folded newspaper jammed them open, and in walked my husband-to-be. He introduced himself. “Hi, I’m Tim Tucker.” We started talking and haven’t stopped since. I thought he was the nicest man I’d ever met and still do.
Our life since then would not have been if we didn’t have two things that are now endangered: print editions and in-person work. I’m an early advocate for working from home, office, cafe or wherever you are, and the flexibility to do so is what drew me to the Daily Report. But I also hope we find ways for people to come together going forward. Already, virtual work technology offers new opportunities there. I’ve gotten to know ALM colleagues all over the country in far greater numbers than before we went virtual. I admire and respect them and consider them friends—even though most of us have never met in person. They’re talented, smart and hard-working journalists devoted to covering the crucial work of the legal profession.
I recall reading a book in high school in which Ralph Nader wrote that he had been drawn to the legal profession because it was “the best place from which to improve society.” It brings up the prequel to my life in journalism. I was on the first debate team during my years at Ringgold High School in North Georgia just south of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The first year’s topic was, “Should mass media coverage of felony offenses be prohibited by law?”
Hilarious now to remember, but I actually was assigned to argue the ridiculous affirmative side of that question. So, if I’d prevailed, I would have worked myself out of a future job. Fortunately, we lost that argument. All I can remember about it is how fascinated I was by the research for that topic, mainly reading old newspaper clips from high-profile murder trials. That and one great teacher—the late Carol Clark, also our debate coach—gave me the idea that I could go to the University of Georgia School of Journalism and become a reporter.
I always had a backup plan. My mother insisted I learn typing, shorthand and bookkeeping so I could work as a secretary. She used those skills heroically as a young widow to save our family. She gave us a home and a life and raised the first college graduates in our family—my brother and me. But I saw too much of the inequity she faced: underpay, overwork and personal errands for the boss. See Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton in “9 to 5.” The movie’s hysterical revenge fantasies were inspired by real-life working women like my mother. I did apply for a temp office job one summer during college but was turned down, secretly relieved. I could only type as fast as I could think, and my shorthand was legible only to me. But fortunately, good enough for a reporter.
The other backup was business. I minored in that, having been told it paid better. I don’t doubt it. But all I ever really wanted to do was be a reporter. It sounded like so much fun: talking to people, telling stories, not having to get anybody else’s coffee.
If I hadn’t chosen that path, I’d never have been able to work at the Daily Report and ALM, where journalism meets law, where reporters get to write about the legal system and the Constitution and those on the front lines fighting for justice and where, somehow, despite the trends, the news is still alive and well in both print and digital form.
And I’d never have been in that elevator 40 years ago.
So that’s why, as I step into retirement with my husband, I feel a deep sense of gratitude for colleagues and newsmakers, present and past, and to ALM and the Daily Report for the opportunity to do the work I’ve loved. I go with the sense that, at times, if we let it, life gives us something better than we ever could have dreamed.