You can’t go home(page) again
We all lived together inside a very shiny home.
A great, grand, Hudson River-adjacent, Frank Gehry-designed, very shiny home.
Everyone had different families and backgrounds. She was from Ohio. He went to Harvard. Homepages still mattered. Snapchat didn't exist. November 2008 was a happier time.
Barack Obama was elected on my first day working at The Daily Beast. This meant the newsroom — the first I had ever seen outside of celluloid — was humming. There were only about a dozen or so employees, but those workers, oh, they were working. Writing, editing, gathering photos, creating pages, posting, posting, posting.
What is all this insanity, I wondered, as I slowly started my first task: writing up a fuzzy interview conducted on a plane. The guy running the homepage kept asking for my transcription. I couldn’t tell him that this was my first time rewinding, starting, stopping, transcribing, or ask him if I should include every nuance or stutter from the conversation. I just kept listening and typing. (Eight years on, that homepage guy is one of my dearest friends.)
Four years from that day, during the next election, we all gathered inside our temporary headquarters, quarantined there after Hurricane Sandy flooded our shiny home. We watched Obama win again and drank Chateau Diana, the only wine available late night in midtown.
What happened during those four in-between years?
Lots. Lots and lots and lots. Too much to remember, really.
Bombings and shootings and mergers and Twitter and so much Chinese food and even more pizza and politics and controversies and red carpet photo galleries and dozens of columnists and coworkers and editors who came, saw, conquered, fled or were fired.
Honestly, it makes your head dizzy.
Together we made news. And aggregated news. And published news. We rewrote headlines and display copy as if the homepage itself was a magazine cover — nice practice for later, when we actually had a real magazine cover.
People hated each other, openly and secretly, and loved each other, openly and secretly, and our little media family grew and fractured so often we lost count of who had come and gone. The in-jokes stuck around. Things that were funny in 2008 can somehow still make us rock with laughter in 2016.
The job was romantic at first. It had to be, to justify the amount of time you spent talking about it to friends who never worked there, the ones who probably didn’t care about an article that arrived at the 11th hour or who you saw gossiping on the ninth floor. It had to be important, or else why would you be working until 2 a.m., or signing on at 5 a.m., or doing both during the same week.
The job felt bigger than you and also impossible to hold, as if you were locked inside its shiny bubble.
Of course, you know what comes next, right?
Pop goes the bubble, the job, the job title, the schedule, the family. Pop goes the news, which you realize you followed out of obligation, not affection. Pop goes the institutional knowledge, the email lists, the Hudson River view, the free snacks, the “good mornings,” the universal complaints, the daily meetings.
But when you sloughed off that bubble gunk, you think…this wasn’t like most places.
This was ours.
And so you don’t even bother looking elsewhere, for a new tribe. Because who you were and who they were and what you created together…that can’t be duplicated. Or even really explained. You can and will romanticize it, probably forever. You were young then, but old enough to know the truth. You really can’t go home again.