Journalism, and real jobs
The news crew has been calling me publisher these days, not exactly a compliment in our world. No offense to the real deals. Mainly its for going to more meetings, holing up in my office and working on god knows what, remembering less about whats in the days paper, seeming a little, well, out of touch lately.Oh, its true. Ive let go of my last hands-on duties, trusting the commentary pages to a smarter and wiser soul, Tamara Miller. Shes doing a fabulous job of revamping the section, too.There was a time, not so long ago either, when the editor of the Vail Daily actually edited the news stories, kept the calendar up, laid out pages, wrote all the editorials and handled everything in the commentary section. You know, good, hands-on, honest work. Stuff you could look back on as accomplishments for the day.Now our section editors are all much sharper than I am. (Just ask em.) No, really, its a bright bunch we have here. They even have a keen ear for suggestions worth taking and which ones to ignore, trusting the editor to forget in about 15 minutes anyway. This is not a lesson taught in journalism school. But so much of editing in real life equates to throwing spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks. And encouraging others to do the same. Just understand that as editor everything that goes wrong is your fault, and everything that goes right happened despite your best efforts to screw it up.Im comfortable with that. Pretty much the same deal as marriage if youre a guy.But ask me just what it is I do, and Ill scratch my head. I dont know. But theres an awful lot of it, whatever it is.Some of it is simple fretting, certainly. I grade each days paper and fuss at cutlines that could be better written, vague headlines, typos in the text, not enough factoid graphics, missed stories or angles, stuff not posted quickly enough on the Web site generally masking the overall pride I take in working with these people who do so well under deadline pressure and the scrutiny of a public quick to pounce.A lot of it is thinking and planning for tomorrow and the next day. What can we do better? What are we missing? Are we getting the best out of everyone? Are we prepared for those inevitable competitors out there? Those sort of questions. Come to think of it, that sounds a lot like fretting, too. This is a natural part of growth. You grow and things get more complicated. No doubt you know this in your own life and work. Our community is all about growth, and things like housing, finding employees or someone to watch the kids are certainly getting complicated.Just remember that the only thing worse than rapid growth is shrinking, at any rate. Ive covered enough communities with factories closing, unemployment soaring, income declining and lots and lots of houses for sale, cheap! For me, growth has meant adding a couple of more publications to fret about. Were bringing the valleys papers The Vail Trail and Eagle Valley Enterprise into one newsroom rather than continuing as individual operations. Weve also brought what was a regional monthly business paper into our shop as a weekly section in the Vail Daily and the Summit Daily News. We also have some notions of starting an alternative entertainment weekly and other niche publications someday. The idea is a little counterintuitive, but I think its dead on. We can make each publications voice and coverage more distinct through coordination rather than ignorance about what separate little staffs are doing. The Vail Daily isnt standing pat, either. A&E Editor Cassie Pence is expanding Arts & Entertainment into much more of a lifestyles section with writers Ted Alvarez and Caramie Schnell. Ive mentioned Tamaras work, which already has improved the commentary section. Were also putting a lot more focus on the Web site, between Web Editor Austin Richardson and the entire staff getting the news on the site first as well as taking more and more advantage of the multimedia opportunities we have online. During the weekdays, these folks are posting something new several times an hour. Did I mention that the news gets on the Web site up to 24 hours ahead of the print edition? No press time to wait on anymore. When we get it, we post it. This is not exactly the stuff of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter who was beheaded by terrorists in Pakistan five years ago while on an assignment. None of us is playing hide and seek in Gaza, although I wouldnt be surprised to see a reporter or two here do some of that later in their careers.Then again, theres a lot more pressure here on getting the story right. How many of the Journals readers really know whether a piece is accurate? Here, a fair share of the audience has a pretty good idea. And if you miss, you hear about it, sometimes pretty loudly.Before I feel sorry for myself (I know better than to seek sympathy from you) over having a little more to fret about, I think about the real publishers with a hair more respect.I only have the news coverage to worry about. Theyve got the rest of the business, too advertising, delivery, community outreach, the operation itself. All kinds of junk, including the ever-present danger of the news staff shooting the business in the foot as a matter of course in doing a responsible job for the community.In other words, they have all the real work. News is a calling. It has to be with the weird hours, constant change in direction, hard deadlines, get-it-first-and-best pressure and assorted stresses that come with that.The minute you think of journalism as work, well, its time for a real job. Like publisher. Managing Editor Don Rogers can be reached at 748-2920, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog at http://www.vaildaily.com/section/BLOG.