Monday marks the 39th anniversary of the day I started work at The Atlanta Journal, which "covered Dixie like the dew."
Driving home down Peachtree Road Monday morning with the happy news that my new pacemaker's keeping my heart in rhythm, I remembered all of my newspaper colleagues who've passed away since that similarly sunny October morning when I began my Atlanta career.
I was a newlywed, recently moved with my bride to Atlanta. The Journal was a separate afternoon newspaper, publishing three editions a day, not yet mortally wounded by declining circulation.
The afternoon newspaper still dominated the local market despite the national recognition given the Constitution's Ralph McGill. In Atlanta, Journal sports columnist Furman Bisher was king.
When I began working the 4 a.m. shift, the Journal and Constitution ran separate newsrooms on different floors at the dreary gray newspaper building at 72 Marietta St. in downtown Atlanta. Visitors could freely come and go, unimpeded by guards, who came later.
Sportswriters from each paper followed the Falcons, Braves, Hawks and college football. Competing reporters covered state and local government. Separate Journal and Constitution critics gave their opinions on theater, the movies, pop music and the Atlanta Symphony.
The newspapers were not a cash cow for the Cox family, they were a cash hippopotamus. The Thanksgiving paper was so full of ads that we had to start working on it in September. With so much space having to be filled, separate sections examined obscure subjects such as the history of the Balkans.
With the Journal bleeding circulation as the intown population plunged and suburban areas boomed, the staffs merged in a couple of years, with bitter rivals unhappily turned into colleagues. News operations were placed on the Journal's old sixth floor, and features thrown together on the Consti's eighth.
For a few years, the papers came out under separate brands, produced by the merged staff. The Journal, with its own day-shift news desk, still put out an early metro edition for news boxes, and the "final home" for home delivery.
Then came the street "blue streak" edition, which because of its before noon deadline lacked any news that broke in early afternoon that TV would report that evening.
The newspapers' editorial-page staffs remained separate, oddly mismatched for their separate audiences.
The liberal Constitution had larger circulation in the more conservative suburbs, while the conservative Journal had more readers in the liberal inner city.
When the newspapers reached the peak of their power before and after the 1996 Olympics, the Internet was the small creature scurrying along the jungle floor.
A few newspaper people began to realize that was was then called the World Wide Web offered advantages in presenting advertising and news.
The AJC presciently launched a pay-wall Internet site, too quickly abandoned. Now paid online subscriptions offer the most promising future for old media companies.
Sept. 11, 2001, gave The Journal a final blaze of glory, with the late old-school newspaperman Frank Hyland writing a masterful article about the attack, beating anything the next morning's Constitution produced after hours of editorial planning. Then, like the World Trade Center, the Journal was gone.
Abandoning downtown for the suburbs, the AJC staggered on, hemorrhaging circulation and ad revenue.
Now, with a much smaller staff, the newspaper marches on. Several of my former colleagues still bravely carry out their mission. Each morning, I walk outside to find the AJC at the end of my driveway.