Setting a new course between the profound and absurd

(This essay ran in the newsletter for Ideastream Public Media on 16 Dec 2021, announcing my departure as afternoon host after 8 years. Listen to my final segment here. More on my future to come.)

Much of my career in journalism has been a balancing act of the profound and the absurd.

By “profound” I mean to contain a depth of quality, emotion and insight. By “absurd” I give nod to amusement, surprise and something rooted in a sense of playfulness.

Every news story seems to have a mix of each, to varying degrees. Maybe think of it as Bob Ross would consider painting: “Mix one part Sunshine Absurdity and two parts Willow Wood Profundity.”

When tens of thousands of fans of Korean megaband BTS inundated me with messages, and then introduced me to a vibrant community providing charity, mental health resources, and more, my mix probably leaned absurd; fascinating, and insightful. But also very surprising.

When a Syrian woman told me of the horrors of war, and her hopes for the freedoms of a new home in Cleveland, I’d place that firmly in the profound.

This balance between the absurd and profound is not just about journalism, of course, it’s about life. Our journalism is supposed to reflect our communities, and our experiences within them.

This pandemic has had moments of both extremes. Stores being overrun because people wanted to stockpile toilet paper is pretty absurd. The fact more than 800,000 Americans have died from this horrific crisis is heartbreaking.

March is considered by many the unofficial two-year mark of this pandemic. For me it also marks two years since I was hit by a car.

The world turned to bread baking—a long-time hobby of mine—but my physical injuries meant I couldn’t knead dough, or even hold my baby. The psychological injuries meant I couldn’t ride in a car without being haunted by a lingering post-crash PTSD.

It’s all so absurd. And profound.

Many of us have reevaluated our lives in this time of uncertainty and loss; an existential moment, some might say.

The works of absurdist philosopher, author, and journalist Albert Camus have received new attention in this time as people grasp for ideas.

Camus, who died in a car crash at the relatively young age of 46, argued that accepting there is absurdity in our world is a first step to provoke in us a revolt to do something fruitful. I don’t fully ascribe to all of his views, but this certainly makes me think about my own ideas of resilience and growth.

I began at WCPN eight years ago at the urging of a close friend, and with the prospect of building something new in the afternoon. But also, it meant I could spend time with Ohio-based extended family I hardly ever saw when I grew up on the West Coast.

As I step away from the microphone at WCPN after tomorrow’s “All Things Considered,” please accept my heartfelt thanks for welcoming me and my family into the community. I hope in a small way I’ve been able to bring you something of value, or maybe something profound, during our afternoons together.

I truly hope you find a source of resilience, even when the world around us seems a little too absurd.

Please take care,
Tony Ganzer
Host, “All Things Considered”

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