So Plastics News turns 25 years old this year (the actual birthday was back in March, but who's counting?). A quarter of a century! What can you say? We're getting older, that's what.
I'm an original Plastics News staffer. (This is how long ago it was when I started: veteran plastics reporter Carl Kirkland smoked at his desk.) Now I'm the last remaining staffer from the original group. Back in 1989, I started on the same day as, and sat across from, Jeanne Reall, who was a fellow reporter. Later, she transitioned to the copy desk. Then she got laid off when Crain Communications Inc. moved Plastics News to Detroit, just about a year ago.
Other good people lost their jobs in the move from Akron to the Crain headquarters in the Motor City. And Plastics News has hired some good people in Detroit, as the company continues to invest in the publication.
I say this not to cause a ruckus, but to say that, in 25 years work — just like your life — has its ups and downs. I've been working at Plastics News for nearly half my life. My relationship with Plastics News has outlasted my marriage. The newspaper is eight years older than my oldest child.
I even have hung around longer than PN editor Don Loepp, who joined in 1991 when we were two years old. Yes, Don is the “new guy.”
What a ride it's been! When I started at Plastics News, I thought covering plastics would get boring, after working at daily newspapers. Wrong! Journalism is never boring. A reporter has a front-row seat to industry news big and small. Indeed, it's often said that newspaper accounts are the first draft of history.
It's hard, but I will try and condense 25 years of the plastics industry into one paragraph: Globalization, Wal-Martization. Consolidation. Too much leverage. Terrorism. The Great Recession. Fracking. The loss of U.S. manufacturing. The renewal of U.S. manufacturing. $2 gas, then $4 gas, now $3 gas. The “skilled worker shortage.” Nanotechnology. Birth. Death. Taxes. All-electric machines. Obamacare.
What will the next 25 years bring? Future plastics industry leaders are in school right now, or on the factory floor, or just being born. Great industry pioneers have died in the past 25 years. Frank Nissel. Jim Hendry. Stephanie Kwolek. Peter Bemis. Jerome Heckman. Barry Potter. Michael Gigliotti. Roger Jones. So many more.
We interviewed them when they were alive. When they passed away, we wrote their obituaries. And the obit, that permanent, written-down memorial to the life of a man or woman, illustrates why print journalism is so important. I have my father's obit from the newspaper. Often while writing an obit, I imagine a family will save this article in a drawer, maybe even get it framed.
Twitter just won't cut it. You can't put Facebook in your drawer of memories, with the report cards, childhood art projects and old amusement park ticket stubs. Only print can do that. Print journalism deserves to outlive me and every one of you, dear readers, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart.
Thanks so much for reading.