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Glory days - real and illusionary

Within days of my joining the Hong Kong World Desk in the autumn of 1987, a grumpy chief sub told me in no uncertain terms that I’d missed the glory days of Reuters by at least a decade, things were rapidly going to pot, and it was all a shambles.

Every single year of the next 25, there was always someone telling me how everything had been so much better at Reuters a year earlier, a decade earlier, sometimes even a month earlier! Either the service had started out on such Olympian heights that it could easily afford this annual slippage, or, perhaps, a singular part of the Reuters experience was (and probably still is) an eternal nostalgia for halcyon days.

I’m hardly immune.

This month marks the third year since I left the company, and certainly when I look back at my quarter century memories are tinged with a halo that somehow I often missed at the time.

I wrote on Facebook this week: 

It has been three years exactly since I walked out of a Thomson Reuters office for the last time as an employee. I miss the community of terrific people and the network and the platform, but aside from that, it has been a great adventure - healthy, happy, and relaxed life, interesting and challenging experiences done almost exclusively on my terms. Given that during my 25 years in, no job I did lasted longer than four years, this current stage feels very much like an assignment well done! Thanks to every one of you who've given bits of encouragement (and in some cases work!) along the way. Let's see how this "assignment" now morphs!

When was the golden age? Was there a golden age? What are the halcyon days that this generation of correspondents or indeed the next will look to?

Certainly among the things I will always carry with me are memories of stories, and more importantly, working on stories as part of teams. Those teams grew into a community; and, thankfully, that community can live on, albeit in a very different form. 

Reuters has indeed changed within Thomson Reuters, just as the Reuters post 1984 flotation was significantly different from the company before it dived into the market, just as, too, the news service after the forex revolution in the early 1970s was radically different from the traditional wire before. 

When was the golden age? Was there a golden age? What are the halcyon days that this generation of correspondents or indeed the next will look to? 

All these are unanswerable and probably even irrelevant questions. We each have our own treasures that we take from our years (or decades) of service. We each have our individual golden ages that may be like years of lead to another colleague.

After 11 different Reuters assignments in 25 years (a breezy average of two years, three months each; none longer than four years), I know that for me chief among those treasures I took with me is a fully-loaded spring always itching to know “what’s next”!

David Schlesinger joined Reuters Hong Kong in 1987. He ran news operations in Taiwan, China and the Greater China region before transferring to New York to serve in turn as financial editor, managing editor for the Americas, and executive vice president and editor of the Americas. He then was global managing editor before becoming editor-in-chief in 2007. His final position in the company was chairman, Thomson Reuters China. He now runs his own consultancy in Hong Kong that advises on China and on global media issues. ■