By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — It started one day in the newsroom when we discovered that many of us live in the same neighborhood — some of us within a block of each other, in fact.
“We should form a gang,” quipped Sun-News business editor Brook Stockberger.
We’ve discussed gang names. There are a few votes for the newsroom basketball team’s moniker: “Write Men Don’t Jump,” but many of us feel we shouldn’t mix our sports and ‘hood identities.
Then there are gang colors. I’m lobbying for black and blue. I know my color psychology. Blue represents peace and black is an authority color that clearly conveys “don’t mess with us” vibes. I’m also partial to purple, a peaceful, energetic hybrid that symbolizes spirituality, a quality that’s important for any gang I’d want to be part of in these challenging times.
Colleague Lucas Peerman thinks we need a gang handshake and we’ve been experimenting with variations on knuck-bumps, that classic contemporary pulled-punch knuckle-knocking greeting, combined with thumbs-up and peace signs. This will take some negotiation. We have both reporters and editors in the gang. Editors often think reporters are too wordy and sometimes reporters feel editors can ignore nuances and poetic expression. Compromise is called for and chances are both sides will have to sacrifice a thumb or a knuck-knock or two.
Then there are things like raps and tags to consider and various other slangin’ and bangin’ issues.
But it soon became clear that before we could get to any of that we’d have to resolve the turf wars.
Many of us live on the East Mesa. Other newsroom colleagues go home to cribs in diverse locales that range from downtown and the university area to Mesilla and Picacho Hills.
But the whole question of turf issues reminded me that we may be looking at the wrong gang models.
Maybe instead of gangstas, we’re closer to the “Our Gang” tribe — those cute little movie comedy kids with spotted dogs and strange hairlicks who entertained generations, decades before we were born.
Or maybe we should just forget the whole thing. Journalists are not by nature herd animals. The best of us are philosophers, souls who are known for their lone wolf tendencies to hang out at isolated ponds and desert retreats.
There’s no disputing that the forms of our old gangs are fading away.
As we move into Mojo (mobile journalist) mode and technology evolves to enable us to spend more and more time in the field, maybe our gangs will exist only in cyberspace and all our rumbles will be virtual.
It’s a little eerie, walking into the newsroom early in the morning to find that many parts of the old Sun-News building are a kind of ghost town, with retro-tech artifacts like our old PCs and the desk sets from our old phone system lined up against bare walls. The old press room is an echoing cavern, and if we want to yell “Stop the presses!”, we’ll need to first place a call on our new Voice-over Internet Protocol phone system to our sister paper in Farmington, where our old presses now reside.
Still, gangs are an All-American tradition, from the revolutionary rebels who joined to form a freedom-loving nation to urban teens immortalized in musicals like “West Side Story” and contemporary multicultural kids who are evolving from angst and violence into what is becoming a rich culture of art, music and dance ... and global tribes that transcend borders.
A well-known local educator told me she would rather work with kids in gangs than the nihilistic Goth kids, “because the kids in gangs have a sense of family” and there is loyalty, energy and purpose that can be the basis for all kinds of creativity.
Meanwhile, back in the newsroom, I have come to believe that there is a bit of Diogenes in the best and even the worst of us, some innate quality that wants to find the truth about why we’re here, where we’ve come from and where we’re going. Maybe there’s a gene or something in our DNA that compels us to seek truth and helpful informational tibits and share it all with others.
I know that’s why I’m still hanging out in newsrooms after all these years.
The turf has changed a lot, but they’re still my gang.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org