Forgive me if I’m a bit loopy. I’m composing this column past midnight on Monday after a long day that included writing more than 2,000 words about the state Criminal Justice Training Commission’s revocation of Winthrop Marshal Dan Tindall’s peace officer certification (see story, page A1). I didn’t even start on that one until mid-afternoon and it’s not done yet.
That was after writing about the Liberty Bell High School girls’ cross-country team’s third consecutive win at the state 1B/2B meet. Which was after writing about the undefeated Liberty Bell girls’ soccer team advancing to state. And after finishing a story about the Rowland family taking over the Winthrop Store. And then there’s those dozens of smaller items you see in the newspaper (even “briefs” take time and effort). Now I’m headed into a full production day with a 750-word hole staring at me from the Opinion page (we’re currently at word 148).
I was hoping to also write a story about the demolition of Sam’s Place in Winthrop, but that will have to wait until next week — there are more people I want to interview for that article so it has some historical perspective and colorful reminiscing.
And Tuesday was Election Day — which means I was up late that night (which is actually later this night) filing local election returns online, after sending the newspaper to the printer.
I’m not looking for sympathy or claiming to be special. At a small paper like this one, “editor” also means “reporter” and “photographer” and “proofreader” and “copy editor,” and there really aren’t that many of us to go around when it comes to filling up the paper — particularly when one of us is on vacation. Everyone here has a challenging job, and everyone steps up.
It helps to have some experience. I couldn’t produce a story like the one about the marshal without calling on more than 40 years of reporting and writing about big issues on relentless deadline. The other News reporters, including Ann McCreary, Marcy Stamper and Ashley Ahearn, are equally adept at turning things around quickly when necessary. Darla Hussey and LaShelle Easton are designing the editorial content on the fly, putting all the pieces together on the blank palette that is a full-size newspaper page.
That’s all part of the adrenalin rush of journalism — not knowing what might be coming, but being ready to pounce on it immediately, staying calm in the middle of chaos, then shifting gears again.
It’s not for someone who requires an ordered work life and predictable routine. We start over every Wednesday morning with a plan for the coming week’s content, and then the plan changes daily depending on what else comes along. In fact, we make changes — some small, some significant — right up until the moment we ship the pages (electronically) to the printing plant in Wenatchee. Then we hope we didn’t miss anything or make many mistakes.
We also thrive on the variety. The Methow Valley News has been making weekly issues for more than 115 years (that’s nearly 6,000 editions), and every one of them is different from all the others. Unlike many mass-produced consumer goods that have to be essentially identical, we are deliberately unique every Wednesday.
This morning I wasn’t entirely sure what would be in the paper this week. Tomorrow morning I’ll have a better idea, and we’ll take it from there. The stories are only part of the process, which also includes design (of ads and editorial content), headline writing, page proofing, photo selection and sizing and making sure the pages are properly configured for the printer. All of those things are time-consuming and necessary.
There are hundreds of what I call “entry points” in the newspaper, ranging from the shortest listing on the What’s Happening page to those little “teasers” at the top of page A1. (Yup, somebody has to write those. That would be me. See if you can do it in a dozen words.) Each one of them requires attention and the same degree of care, because they’re all important to someone.
After doing this for more than four decades, I still don’t consider it a “job” in the same way that others might define their daily work. When I think of the many demanding and complex occupations out there, most of which I couldn’t begin to handle, I’m in awe of the people who do them and admire the skill, passion and excellence they bring to their vocations. In that sense, we’re all the same. So that’s 756 words, and there are other things to do.