Tonawanda News

December 9, 2012

DUVALL: Passing a milestone and looking back, then ahead

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — They say 30 is the new 20. Today, I hope they’re right.

I exited my third decade of life Saturday, embarking on the fourth and generally acting like I did the last time I had a birthday with a round number — surrounded by my favorite people (and vodka), carousing, laughing about funny old stories and making a few new ones.

It certainly wasn’t intentional, but I passed another milestone just the day before: I bought my first new car. OK, it’s not really new. It’s a 2009. But when you’ve never owned a car that’s less than 10 years old, the idea of glancing down at the odometer and seeing it display “30,000” and not “181,000” as my previous car did before it finally died an unfixable death, it might as well have just rolled off the assembly line.

I’m not really an age guy, but the prospect of turning 30 was, I’ll admit, a little unnerving. There’s something about being in your 20s that allows for a certain small amount of youthful transgression. Thirty just sounds so ... grown up

I have an odd relationship with age. When I meet new people I’ve learned I make an impression that leads them to think I’m older than I am. The job title plays a big part in that, I suspect. When someone asks what I do and I tell them I’m the editor of the Tonawanda News, they automatically add a decade or so. 

But journalism is increasingly a young person’s pursuit. Gone are the crusty old editors with a bottle of whiskey in the bottom desk drawer barking out orders at terrified cub reporters. Journalists today are one step removed from techies, nimbly hopping from one social media platform to another, all while attending to the good old-fashioned print product that rolls off the presses in the wee hours of the morning.

All the gray hair I’ve gotten since I took this job now more than five years ago doesn’t help in the youthful appearance department either. Friends have asked why I don’t dye it. I tell them the honest truth: I’m too lazy. But there’s also some truth to the fact that the gray hair is a badge of honor of sorts. Each one was gotten on a tough news day or a long night hunched over a desk covered in empty Chinese food containers and 11-by-17-inch page proofs trying in vain to prevent every last mistake made through the course of the day from reaching your doorstep. And let it be said for the record, there are many nights where that’s a stressful proposition.

My uncle joked during a family get-together to celebrate Hanukkah and my 30th, “You don’t look a day over 40.” We all laughed, me because I know he’s partly right. (I’d have said 35, but I’m not the one making the joke so I don’t get to pick.)

So here I sit, writing my umteen-millionth column, trying your patience and hopefully saying something you’ll find interesting or worth repeating, reflecting on the last decade, the last five years at the News and pondering what the next decade will hold. I do a young man’s job with the same passion as the day I started, a point of pride when I see so many others burning out and running for the hills to an easier 9-to-5 PR gig that isn’t nearly as much fun or rewarding, but pays better and makes life a lot easier.

They can have their jobs and I hope they enjoy the freedom that comes from working at a place where the problems stay in the office, there aren’t midnight phone calls and a deadline looms never more than 24 hours away. 

I’m 30 and 30 isn’t that old. And besides, age is just a number. Or at least that’s what people who just turned 30 tell themselves.

Either way, I don’t feel a day over 29.

Eric DuVall is the managing editor of the Tonawanda News. His column appears Wednesdays and Sundays. Contact him at