Many years ago, Mark Brown -- not our Mark Brown, a different journalist (go figure, I've known four Mark Browns in this business) -- signed off from his post as pop music critic at California's Orange County Register with a column describing something of an epiphany he had after being konked in the head with a shoe thrown from the stage by the singer for Candlebox.
"It was a sign from God: time to get out," he wrote.
My own decision to depart journalism has evolved over some time.
I'm leaving the Sun-Times at the end of this week, suspending a two-decade, full-time career in journalism. As I wrap up a master's degree in new media communication at Univ. of Illinois-Chicago, I've decided to pursue a Ph.D. in the same field at the Univ. of California-San Diego.
As Brown asked, "Why walk away from the greatest job in the world?"
Make no mistake, I am not fleeing. I'm running to, not from. The timing of my departure -- amid journalism's alleged decline, and within days of the Sun-Times' brutal amputation of its photography staff -- is merely curious. I've had a hand in academia as a lecturer and an adjunct instructor for a dozen years, and it's been a longtime goal to steer my full-time career in that direction.
Believe it or not, I remain an optimist about the future of journalism. The current crisis is one of obsolete business models, not reporting standards -- and as long as draconian solutions for the former don't completely eviscerate the practice of the latter (a point on which my optimism has wavered a bit of late), a potential remains for another golden era ahead for America's fourth estate. Yes, even arts criticism.
My own bottom line: I can contribute more to the world -- and, hopefully, some of those solutions -- by adding to the leadership in communication education and via my own burgeoning research than I ever would by writing another summation of One Direction or the Rolling Stones.
It's been a blast. I've been one lucky bastard for a great many years, worked alongside and spoken with some outstanding individuals, listened to a lot of fine music and seen some great shows. (If anyone cares, I recently rounded up a very subjective list of my 50 favorite all-time concerts.) Withdrawal from the free-music pipeline, I fully suspect, will be, like, "Basketball Diaries"-bad.
So long, Chicago.
Since I'm often rightly accused of liking Beatlesque bands more than the actual Beatles, this is an easy choice for my parting theme song ...