The first time I stepped off the third-floor elevator into the newsroom of The Wichita Eagle in 2002, I was appalled.
Claustrophobia greeted me as I walked into a room bathed in brown. Or was it a brownish-yellow from the days when smoking was allowed? The tan carpeting told the tales of many newsroom lunches past.
Some improvements have been made since then. However, the sometimes water-stained ceiling tiles are still here, hiding who knows what.
Once, when I was interviewing an architect who bragged about designing the newsroom, I had to restrain myself from not only complaining but avenging every female who has ever had to contort herself merely to use one of the sinks in the ladies’ room if someone else was using the other one.
Never miss a local story.
It’s funny what you get used to, though. I now look and wonder what I thought was so bad about the place (though my thoughts on the bathroom are unchanged).
The Eagle is my home away from home. There’s nothing anywhere else that routinely makes me literally catch my breath as I do when I’m at work in the late afternoons and briefly glance up from the bright light of my computer screen.
Out our north bank of sprawling windows along East Douglas, I’m suddenly privy to the most magical sunset colors – yellows, oranges, reds, pinks and purples – slowly spreading over the rooftops of Old Town.
The Eagle has incredible views on three sides of the newsroom. The east windows near where I sit are great for seeing planes – I saw the Concorde once – and smoke from fires all the way to Butler County.
The west windows are ideal for tornado watching. Not that I’ve ever seen one. They make us go to the basement when there are sirens.
Realistically, though, you can see so far, you could easily watch a tornado spinning its way to The Eagle, get a video online and still have plenty of time to take cover.
I’ve argued for years that no Caribbean island can beat a sunset that you see out of The Eagle, but it was only recently that someone pointed out that that’s because the windows are tinted.
While my observational abilities can be questioned, the views cannot. You should see them while you can.
Which, as you may have heard, will not be an option for much longer. The Eagle is moving next month – to Old Town Square – and Cargill is taking our site, demolishing our building and constructing one more suited to today’s young workers, who aren’t fans of traditional office environments.
No one seemed as intent on pleasing Gen Xers when I entered the workforce as they do today’s millennials. To make sure they have everything they need, Cargill, may I recommend you build them lots of windows?
I know that people are not happy that we moved our printing to Kansas City and have downsized in other ways and don’t need as much space these days. I know it’s going to be an adjustment when The Eagle moves.
I’ll likely find something to complain about the minute I get off the elevator, and then before long it’ll be home again.
It’ll be home because of the crazy collection of caring people coming with me. The ones who come early, stay late and sometimes don’t leave at all.
The ones who put readers first and everything else second or somewhere else down the line.
The ones who sometimes don’t even come into the office anymore – sending photos from a scene, writing stories on their phones and even editing videos from their cars (though not while driving, we can hope).
The Eagle is bigger than a building. Even bigger than the people who are here now. It’s something of a tangible intangible – a solid force for the city, its good news and bad, in whatever form it comes every single day of every single year.
And it’ll be that way even once we leave the horrible bathrooms and gorgeous views at 825 E. Douglas.