Stick around in the newspaper business long enough and you'll probably leave the newspaper you work for. On average, probably a half-dozen times. You have to. Unless you start at the New York Times or a paper of that size, it's the only way to make significantly more money and improve your job title. It's a sad reality, but it's true.
Anyway, we lost one of our best last week. My former desk neighbor Patty Kim, who wrote and produced and edited the 4You health tab in the Trib, left to go work for Moffitt Cancer center. As a journalist and a fellow University of Florida alum, I was greatly saddened by this.
Yes, she was a valued colleague. Yes, she was a dedicated journalist. Almost to the point of renal failure. Blah, blah, blah.
But I digress.
The tradition in the newspaper business is that when someone of great standing leaves that paper, a joke front page is created with spoof stories and headlines and all the goofball photos you can scrounge. When the person is so upstanding and respectable that you can't scrounge any, you Photoshop their heads into embarassing photos. When the person is an upper-level executive, you disregard actual photos and find the best Photoshop-capable artist in the building and let them work their magic. Unless you want a job from that person at the next paper they go to.
Dozens of copies of each page are made and passed around as the newsroom gathers to eat crappy going-away cake. Folks from sports, who work almost entirely different hours from the rest of the staff and thusly have almost no connection to anyone in metro, features or business sections, show up just for the cake.
It's the circle of newspaper life. It binds us all.
The end result? Everyone has a good laugh. Person leaving acts surprised at the gesture. Editor sending him/her off looks magnanimous. Life goes on. People go back to work. Pages are kept forever.
One guy at the Palm Beach Post I used to work with, Charlies Keefer, used to keep them on his wall like a page-a-day calendar. Last I saw, he had dozens. He'd been there that long. And, you know, back then the Post spit out great people like Pez. It was the place you worked when you wanted to leapfrog next to a great paper. It had that reputation for grooming. Taking someone who was headed for the Miami Herald or the Washington Post down a peg was almost a duty. If only to make yourself feel better about having not left yet.
I took great pride in crafting pages for people. Really went all out. Friends, enemies. Didn't matter. The one they made for me when I left the Post was so chock full of embarassing photos taken while on the job, (porn stars reaching into my pants, dozens of lorakeets perched chewing on my head, me wearing a nun's costume), they felt the need to label each frame as a "NON-PHOTOSHOPPED IMAGE." After pegging people for so long with my own efforts, I knew this was coming. What did I do? I went on offense and made my own going-away page that mocked the paper. And myself, of course. People were stunned. It's still talked about to this day.
A couple weeks ago, Patty's friends Corrie and Emily came to me to pitch the idea of doing a multimedia send-off instead. Made sense. Patty was the queen of multimedia. Great idea.
We sculpted grand plans. Emily and Corrie created a Web page. I schemed to create a Wikipedia page (didn't happen). I also pitched the idea of doing farewell videos. Emily decided to do a music video, complete with choreography, called "P.K. Rocks."
Great idea. Fun idea. For Patty, the sky is the limit. Really. She's that kind of person.
We sent out an e-mail to the staff asking for them to come by and tape a farewell. And I pulled a few ideas out of my sleeve.
Anyway, I busted out the video camera and went to work creating a channel for Patty on YouTube called PKayVision. Wound up shooting and editing 11 videos in 10 days.
I can't tell you how much fun this was.
One of my earliest efforts featured my colleague and occasional partner in video crime, Ryan Bauer, in a spoof of "The Office.":
Then I shot and edited one that spoofed Patty's fascination for yoga:
Then there was this one, which makes me wince just looking at the makeup:
My favorite, though, may be the simplest. Phil Morgan, who lives to channel the spirit of Elvis, asks the future-perfect question of Patty: "Are You Lonesome Tonight?"
As I e-mailed to Patty after her farewell party, "If you didn't know you were beloved after this weekend, you weren't paying attention."
Good luck, P.K. Moffitt is lucky to get you.