“I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me. But it’s hard to stay mad when there’s so much beauty in the world… And then I remember to relax, and try not to hold on to it. And then it flows through me like rain. And I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life. You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. Don’t worry, you will someday.”
The snatch of dialogue above is from a great movie, American Beauty, and the “someday” referred to in the last line — from a voiceover by the lead character, Lester Burnham — has arrived for me.
I slumped into a lawn chair on Sunday after a post-tennis swim off the dock, when it started to rain. My world had partially collapsed on the Friday, with the shocking news that my newspaper was folding. In that context, sitting through a summer shower didn’t seem particularly odd. But then it started pouring — tank rain — and I felt like a crazy person, slouched there, eyes closed, under storm clouds. Until I allowed myself to enjoy the moment.
“And then I remember to relax, and try not to hold on to it. And then it flows through me like rain. And I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life.”
Fear sharpens the mind and the shock of change slowly gives way to clarity and a heightened sense of awareness. I felt every raindrop as if it had been flung individually to the earth.
Shock, anger, fear, anxiety, disappointment, self-loathing, misery… giving way to a begrudging acceptance… and finally, gratitude. Gratitude as so eloquently described by Mr Burnham.
I’m grateful to my publisher Randy French for the opportunity of a lifetime. I’ve spent 24 years at the Bermuda Sun and it has been an honour and a privilege to edit the paper for the past 15 of those years.
Randy never once interfered with the editorial autonomy of the newsroom. As a reporter, I was afforded the freedom to roam and report whatever flowed into my notebook. Along the way I exposed a ‘cult church’ where the pastor anointed naked women; a political scandal in which a Cabinet minister’s home was wrongly put under surveillance and which resulted in the resignation of the Commissioner of Police; a sex scandal that cost a convicted child-killer all seven years’ remission on his jail sentence; we also named PLP ministers in a 10-page investigation (with Nigel Regan) into the Bermuda Housing Corporation.
As editor, I oversaw: a 14-page special report the day after 9/11; Meredith Ebbin’s brave expose on The Paper Mill Professor (a charlatan educator); Tim Hall’s beautifully written account of Barack Obama’s Presidential victory and its resonance with Bermuda’s civil rights veterans; James Whittaker’s world-class reporting on the Uyghur saga and, more recently, Danny McDonald’s JetGate scoop that rocked the OBA’s leadership.
That’s not to mention all the hurricanes, the general elections, the gang shootings, the murder trials. Or all the Cup Matches, Bermuda Day Parades, Budgets, Throne Speeches — plus the countless stories of human triumph and inspiration.
We have always endeavoured to pursue truth, to be fair and balanced and give voice to diverse points of view. Our aim was to make the complex readable; neither to patronize those who know more than us nor to be obscure to those who don’t; to make stories about people rather than policy. If the legacy of the Bermuda Sun is that it helped raise the bar on journalistic standards, then we can look back with great pride.
I’ve been fortunate to work with outstanding people. Among them: My deputy, Don Burgess, is the most dedicated, resourceful and hardest working journalist I’ve ever known; Meredith Ebbin, a great pal and the most important Bermudian reporter of her generation and Tom Vesey, a gifted commentator and my brilliant former editor at the Sun. I’m also grateful to the paper’s President, Lisa Beauchamp, for her tireless commercial enterprise and years of support. I thank all of my dear colleagues at the Sun, my devoted columnists — and everyone who’s ever returned a call from our reporters. But most of all, I thank you, the readers. You’ve carried us on an extraordinary journey and I sincerely hope the memories will be meaningful and lasting.
Sometimes, big emotions and deep feelings, such as those I’ve endured these past few days, are crystalized by small incidents.
• At noon on Friday, marchers were due to meet at Victoria Park to protest the PRC issue.
Our photographer Glenn Tucker is not contracted to work on Fridays but he volunteered to cover the event. We would need video as well as stills and Photo Editor Gary Skelton was concerned about the weather and how it might affect the video shoot. So he came to me — and offered to go out in the rain to hold an umbrella over Glenn and his camera while he shot the event. Such was the remarkable camaraderie fostered at the Bermuda Sun.
Two hours later, they would be told at a staff meeting that their jobs were being made redundant, along with those of 21 of their colleagues.
• On Friday afternoon, with the shock of the paper’s closure still as raw as an open wound, columnist Chris Famous dropped by my office, unannounced, with his 13-year-old son Dezion, to be with his “Bermuda Sun family” and thank me for giving him a regular column.
He shared with me that each Tuesday and Thursday night, he visits the Island Press and acquires (through a pal) a copy of the paper, fresh off the press.
He takes it to his father, with whom he has not always had the easiest of relationships, and proudly shows him his latest column. Chris shared that this has helped strengthen the bond between him and his dad. It’s a long time since I’ve heard more poignant testimony about the power and prestige of a printed newspaper.
• Friday, the day our publisher declared to staff that our paper was folding, was one of the worst days of my life.
The next morning, little of the gloom had subsided when there was a gentle tap on my bedroom window, followed, an hour later, by a cellphone call.
It was my beloved 11-year-old niece Eliza, of Lunch With Uncle fame (she lives next door), inviting me to breakfast. She’d heard she was now an out-of-work Junior Restaurant Critic but was more focused on cheering up her jobless uncle: “We have fresh cinnamon buns and they’re warm and fluffy.”
Sometimes, as Lester Burnham would doubtless agree, a little perspective is a very sweet thing indeed.