My press pass had spent the better part of the summer buried deep in my boxy black canvas briefcase; which was sitting on the garage floor at my home, enveloped in a casing of green mold.
The mold was thanks to Hurricane Irene and the rest of the monsoon-like summer season we endured here in the Garden State. The fact that the pass had spent the summer there was thanks to the closing of the news operation I’d worked for for the past 16 years, NJN News.
Now I’d need it again, this key to an identity I’d fashioned over more than 20 years of chasing down stories as an accredited member of the media.
The editors at Politickernj.com were welcoming me aboard to join them as a reporter/political analyst; working a few days a week out of their State House bureau.
Guys whose stories I’d read closely and who I’d worked alongside for years – Isherwood, Pizarro, Carroll, Mooney and Hassan – would now be teammates on the same club
And I’d be re-joining all the other reporters and editors toiling up and down “Press Row” under the gold dome here; much as I had while working for the Trenton Times or the Asbury Park Press back in the early and mid-90’s.
And while I’ve often said over the years that covering the State House is in many ways like watching Days of Our Lives or one of the other old soaps – you could walk away for a few years and come back and have no trouble picking up the plot line – things have changed here some since the ’90s.
If you’d said you were going to “tweet” something or somebody back when I was a Press Row regular, for example, you might find yourself in your newspaper’s home office sitting before the company personnel officer with some ‘splaining to do.
Reporters didn’t whip out their cell phones at gubernatorial press conferences and fire off a photo that’d then end up on the front page of their newspaper’s website within minutes.
Heck, there were no cell phones back then; at least not for the masses. And there were no websites back then either to speak of. Now I’m writing for one, sending words out into the ether to any number of devices in milliseconds as opposed to the printing press for next-day doorstep delivery.
Whether you’ve beat the competition or been beaten is now measured in minutes instead of the standard 24 hours.
And there’s more on the social media landscape. On top of Twitter, there’s Facebook and blogging and who knows what else now and still to come for reporters and anyone else in the world with a thought – resulting in what some call the democratization of the media.
That’s a good thing in my estimation, these new tools that help further freedom of expression – whether for something as serious as fomenting revolutions against despotic regimes overseas or birthing the Occupy Wall Street movement here, or for something as simple as gathering cycling enthusiasts together for a ride in the country or extended family together for a reunion.
It’s all there for anyone and everyone to use, with or without a press pass.
But for this reporter, the press pass completes you.
You just hope your skills haven’t grown moldy like the old bag it was kept in.
But that’ll be for others to decide.
For now, it’s just good to be back in the saddle again.