Last night was my union's holiday party. There were skits and food and some annual traditions, and a good crowd of people. As my wife and I left, I couldn't help wondering how many of us will be at the party next year.
I'm not planning to go anywhere. But newspaper staffs change from year to year. Ambition takes some to other places. Dissatisfaction drives others away. Health and personal issues also take a toll.
And this year we met with uncertainty hanging over us. Knight Ridder, which owns the Beacon Journal, is considering sale offers for the entire company. Budgets have been tight, especially as the year has wound down and we have gone through the newspaper equivalent of digging in the couch for loose change. No one knows who will own us by the end of 2006, and what plans they will have for us.
Still, I don't want this to be a sour note. In fact, I've been fighting the urge to quote ''Henry V'' -- the business about the band of brothers. As apt as it feels in some ways, Shakespeare was talking about men at war. The men and women of the Beacon Journal are going through some difficult times, but it's nothing compared to the people being shot at overseas.
I am feeling sentimental, though. I looked around that room last night, and around my newspaper office today, and thought of all the friends I have made there. People I both liked and respected, whether we were talking about a story for the paper or something we had both watched on TV.
They get reviled whenever someone waves a brush called ''the media'' (or, in more recent times, ''the mainstream media'' and ''MSM''). But they are not a faceless horde, not one of those mobs of hat-wearing Goths you see storming a news opportunity in some old movie.
They have jobs, and families, and friends, and faith. Their lives are complicated, their needs many, their accomplishments considerable.I am proud to have hung out with them, in the newsroom or at a party, and I hope the future -- whatever it may be -- is bright for all of them.