Michael Casey, a senior columnist at The Wall Street Journal, sent out the following farewell email on Thursday afternoon:
One of the many challenges of journalism in this dynamically changing era is to fight back against the notion that what we do is merely to deliver “content.” It’s a utilitarian word that reduces the vital, complicated art of news production to that of making “filler.” It dehumanizes the process.
Producing news is an incredibly complex business. It’s an ongoing negotiation of competing interests that entails compromise, understanding, empathy and compassion. It requires journalists to recognize that everybody deserves a chance to have their voice heard but also that, given the physical constraints of time and space that bind us all, tough choices must be made. If we want fairness, balance and integrity to be standards by which society works out its issues, we need media organizations to be run by human beings capable of making those tough choices and standing by them. That’s only possible when a newsroom nourishes a culture of respect and solidarity. It’s that human, community-building component that makes a great news operation, not SEO-driven headline machines or algorithmically approved “listicles.”
I’m preaching to the choir, of course. But when I contemplated, with some angst, on how to say goodbye to an institution that has nurtured me for almost 18 years, I kept coming back to this human dimension, to the many, many people I’ve come to know as trusted colleagues and friends. Most of us will say we’re “honored” or “privileged” to work for The Wall Street Journal and we all know the power of that name to open doors, to get people to talk to us. But it’s not the masthead or the iconic “WSJ” logo that defines the institution; it’s the legacy of people who have for decades dedicated themselves to the art of fine writing and editing and, just as importantly, have put themselves in the middle of those difficult decisions and stood up and supported their colleagues for doing the same. It’s this unique form of human capital that protects the integrity of this institution and wins the trust of our readers.
In recognition of that people element, I started to write a list of those I’d like to single out for having made a difference in my life over the past two decades, but it literally became too long. Let me just say that in Jersey City, in Jakarta, in Buenos Aires, and here in New York, whether for the wires, the paper, the blogs, the WSJ Live video team or bold ventures like DJ FX Trader, I felt blessed to work with some of the smartest, most dedicated and supportive people one would ever want as colleagues. I’ve been managed by great editors and have had the privilege myself of managing great young journalists who’ve gone on to bigger and better things. But it’s the sense of teamwork generally that most stands out. Now, in these difficult times, that spirit is still evident. Keep up the good fight, you guys.
Why did I end a career of 22 years in journalism? Quite simply, I wanted a new challenge and the one that came my way was just too exciting to turn down. (For those who don’t know, I’m off to work in an advisory capacity for a project tied to digital currencies and blockchain technology. It will be officially announced next week.) I never imagined I would stay at the same company for 18 years, but Dow Jones created so many varied opportunities for me in different places that it was almost like joining a new, exciting startup every few years. Thank you, all of you, for making those experiences so rich.
For those who aren’t fleeing town for the July 4th weekend, I’d love to see you at my farewell party at the Long Room on 44th Street tonight. But there’s no need to lose touch after that. I’m eager to regale you with stories of what our project is up to. I’ll still be based in New York (with a bit of interstate commuting involved.)