A member of the family moves on

I'm not sure exactly how it works out in the real world, but people in a newsroom tend to get pretty close.

Journalism is one of those professions that's just not like anything else. When studies are done on such things, the public most often compares us to the military, but I can assure you, we share little in common with the armed forces, although we probably cuss as much, if not more.

I guess there is one thing that's similar, though - you spend a lot of time with your fellow soldiers in a newsroom.

News happens when it happens, and the newspaper has to get out, so we work horrible hours and we're all in it together. We're here nights, weekends, holidays and - as I tell prospective job candidates - we work every fire, flood, famine and meteor strike. When something happens that allows or forces most people to take off work, we're expected to show up and work a double.

When you work together like that so much, you find yourself spending a lot of time outside work with the same people. After all, about the only other folks who keep these sorts of hours are cops, and we don't go to the same bars.

So when you spend that much time together you get to know people better than you might otherwise. Over the years, you've heard them laugh and you've heard them cry. You've been to their apartment and you've helped them move. You know their favorite band, their political beliefs and their pet peeves. You've fixed each others' cars, borrowed each others' money and brought each other dinner.

And because the newspaper has to get out, you've spent all the holidays together at work at one time or another - and sometimes away from work. You've been to ball games, concerts, weddings and funerals together. Some even get married to each other.

The point is, you become like a family - as the subject of this column says, "a big, happy, dysfunctional family" - but family nonetheless.

And just like in real families, sometimes members leave. Such is the case today.

A little more than six years ago, I drove down to the airport to pick up Tori Boone. She'd flown in to interview for an opening we had for a copy editor. When she asked me over the phone how she would recognize me at the gate, I told her to look for a fat guy in a red baseball cap. We still laugh about that.

I brought her back to the Daily Post's old building on Born Street, which was a dingy old yellow warehouse with a partially unpaved parking lot and a rotting barn in front of it. The inside was just as nice, with every nook and cranny crammed full of computers, papers, people and various other odds and ends. The whole thing was held together by nothing but corrugated metal and good fortune.

Despite the less-than-luxurious accommodations, Tori took the job anyway, deciding to ride along wherever the Post took her.

Tori was with us for some big changes, like when we got our nice, new brick building and when we combined the copy desks of three papers.

And like most journalists, she became a master of many trades, becoming an editor, a page designer and a writer. She has built the majority of the Weekend sections you've read over the past several years and written quite a few stories for them as well, interviewing celebrities from The Rock to Ludacris. More importantly, she has taken a deep pride in her work, and I believe any good product reflects the passion of its builder.

She's also done a lot of other things, from wrangling movie theaters, critics and wedding announcements to ordering office supplies. I think she also might be the only person who knows anything about changing the toner in the fax machine, so if you send us a fax after today, you should cross your fingers and say a little prayer first.

But Tori has been more than a co-worker. She has been a part of our family, and today, she is leaving. I don't know if she considers the position she is about to take her dream job, but it sure sounds like it, and I wish her all the best.

As for us, I'm sure in the future we'll tell our favorite stories that will begin with phrases like "Remember when ..." and will end with laughter. We'll miss her, but mostly we'll be happy for her.

And as for her new employer, I just have one thing to ask: Please take good care of our Tori. Because remember:

She's family.

E-mail Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays.