Goodbye CCT building
So let me be clear, I hate this building. I mean I seriously loathe it. There is nothing good about it. It has poor lightening, it is virtually windowless and I am pretty sure the carpets have not been deep cleaned since Dean Lesher walked the halls.
I am no fan of the 1970s architecture that gave way to this grey monstrosity that has at times looked more like a prison than an office. A black iron fence surrounds the entire facility which has always reminded me of the beginning of the movie “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” when the title character is looking at the Wonka Factory. And a man comes by and says “Nobody ever goes in and nobody ever goes out!” Creepy.
I have never been enamored with the clanking door one has to use to exit and enter the newsroom just to get to the rest of the building. The microwaves in the hall have always been especially gross. One is never quite sure if having hot food is worth taking a chance with those bacteria invested boxes. And I have seen my share of spiders, cockroaches and even a snake both inside and outside of this fortress.
The desks built before the advent of desktop computers and cubicles are an embarrassment.
From the very first time I walked in to this newsroom more than seven years ago, I have always thought someone should demolish this place. And now someone apparently will. We are moving to an office with so many windows there is no place to hang art. In my opinion that is a fantastic problem to have.
So why as the last day ever at 2640 Shadelands draws near am I sad?
Do I have secret love for this dungeon? Have I been complaining all these years but really a dirty old newsroom is exactly what I wanted? I can’t quite put my finger on it.
The presses here stopped about a year ago. We haven’t smelled that familiar paper and ink stench for quite some time. In fact, I recently walked by the windows that overlook the press room and there was no press! It had at some point been removed. The ghosts of killer, game-changing front pages seem to linger in the dark vast empty space.
And this old building is a depressing shell, with most offices empty, entire wings closed off. The majority of the newsroom staff moved out earlier this year, dispersed to various other offices like pieces of furniture after a patriarch of a family dies.
So perhaps that’s what this sickening feeling in my stomach is all about. This is a death. When Dean Lesher built this place it was modern and newspapers were essential. And now this place is decrepit and newspapers are failing. But the plight of newspapers is not news, it has been in major decline for the last 10 years, my entire professional career. Declining readership, plummeting ad revenue, layoffs, furloughs, pay cuts and buyouts are a newspaper world I am intimately familiar with.
But even when something has been sick for a long time, it is still heartbreaking when the pulse finally stops. And for me this building closing is just a giant sign of all that has changed in newspapers and all that was and will never be.
It was in this newsroom that I watched and took part in breaking stories. This is where I learned that the country would have its first African-American president and it was here in this room at this desk where I wrote hundreds of stories. Not to mention my many personal milestones. This was the office I came back to after I got married. I worked here during my pregnancy and came back after the birth of my son.
I know the stories, those memories don’t die with this place. But the idea that the Contra Costa Times will no longer reside on Shadelands Drive makes me go cold. It’s not the end of an era it’s a reminder that it ended as we all continue to try and figure out how to navigate a new one.