Reuters correspondent Peter Szekely sent out the following to his colleagues on Thursday:
Yesterday, I signed some documents, and with that my time at Reuters is about to end.
I’ll stay on the payroll through the end of the December, and technically, it’s not a done deal yet. But given that I marked my 43rd anniversary with the Baron last month, I can confidently say that no matter how many other folks also signed those documents, my seniority guarantees that I’ll be gone on Jan. 1. Since many of you will be off for the next two weeks, I wanted to say good-bye now.
This is actually my second farewell. In May 2007, I left the Washington bureau after 24 years (and another 4 in New York), to become a full-time Guild officer. The Washington bureau, with the camaraderie we had and the work we got to do in the 1990s, was the best working experience I’ve ever had. Sadly, a buyout shattered it all in 1997, but the bureau remained a great place to work for the next 10 years. At my farewell bash, I remember saying, “Who knows? I may be back.”
Like most folks, I had a standout journalism moment or two, starting about a year after I joined as a commodities reporter. I covered a boycott of U.S. cargo destined to or from Iran by U.S. longshoremen’s union members who couldn’t understand why the Carter administration was trading with a country that was holding American hostages. I went on to cover energy, the SEC, the economy, labor and helped with most everything in the Washington bureau. In early 1986, with the Philippines on the brink of civil war, I told the world that the Reagan administration wanted Ferdinand Marcos out (he left). Other stories included the 1980s insider trading scandals, the 1990s power struggles at the AFL-CIO and the Teamsters Union, and the first transmission of the Hubble space telescope. My bulletins began and ended the Gulf War. Oh, and the 1987 stock market crash? That was me. I triggered it. Our bosses at the time chose not to hype it, but The New York Times later published a graph of the DJIA on Oct. 19, 1987 that showed my snap landing on the brink of the big vertical drop of the day (only time I ever moved a market).
But the work that leaves me most satisfied was representing my co-workers as an activist and an officer of what is now The NewsGuild of New York. I’m eternally proud to have been one of many people who stepped up to make Reuters a better place to work. After 17 years as unit chair, I went to the Guild as its No. 2 officer and later as president. That was my dream job. It was the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, and I was doing it at the most tumultuous time in the news business. I had hopes and dreams of doing so much more until democracy threw me a high hard one in late 2016. My departing quip of 2007 turned out to be prescient, and back to Reuters I went in early 2017.
At the time, I joked about how getting back to journalism after 10 years was just like riding a bike, except with more junk on the handlebars. But that was an understatement. In fact, the New York newsroom of 2017 was a bizarro-world version of the 2007 Washington bureau. Back then, emails were supplements to, not substitutes for, phone calls; we didn’t attribute news to other media unless they had it exclusively; we didn’t chase cops and robbers on the internet; no one talked about stories getting eyeballs (don’t call them clicks) and if you wanted to update a story you better have a damn good reason. Maybe the biggest change was that the internet had turned nearly every news organization into a wire service, which dialed up the pressure.
While the new journalism took some getting used to, my new co-workers did not. At one of the lowest points of my life, everyone was warm and welcoming. Lots of people in the New York newsroom went out of their way to say welcome back, or to tell me that they had voted for me. I’ll never forget that. Even managers were decent. The contract required them to take me back, but it didn’t require them to be nice about it. And yet they were. I’m forever indebted to Kevin Krolicki for making the transition as easy as possible for me.
It has been a great honor to have been part of this venerable news organization for so long, and to have worked with so many smart, dedicated, interesting people along the way. Looking ahead, I have a couple vague projects in mind, but I’m going to coast for a couple of months. I would love to hear from you, even for questions about the contract. Feel free to contact me anytime (bosses too). Or, contact a certain desker who knows how to reach me.
And so, having unapologetically just busted our word limit, I bid you farewell for the second time.