Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Today in Review

Since I seem to be gutting my memory each night and haven't really been taking notes about my life because it's been utterly crazy, I thought maybe I'll try to make up for my lack of posting about my week in review by giving you a glimpse of a day.

Last night it was raining a little as I came home. Nothing strange for me, a Seattle native, right? Well... I'm not used to the rain freezing as soon as it hits the ground. A couple of hours after sunset, that's what was happening here. By morning we had a giant sheet of ice covering every paved surface. The only non-slick spots were areas where the snow hadn't been shoveled, and those were crusted foot-traps.

Hubby-Eric, sweetheart that he is, interrupted my morning shower several times to update me on school delays and closures. Once I was dressed, I checked the newspaper's website and didn't see any updates, so I started to worry a little. The editor lives on the only real hill in town, and I wondered if he'd been able to get to work at all. So I left for work earlier than I'd planned, and got to work about an hour early. The two worst parts of the commute were getting out of my own driveway, which is just steep enough to be frightening when there is ice, and crossing the parking lot at work on foot. Luckily, I have stabilicers, so I was able to clack my way across the ice without slipping.

Aside: I really love my stabilicers, which I call my "spikes." I keep them in my car all winter. They are sturdy, can be slipped onto a shoe with one hand with a little practice, and are perfect for the light snow and heavy ice we tend to get around here. My co-workers all seem envious of them, so every time someone says they wish they had some, I send them the link to the website so they know what they are called.

As it turned out, the editor was on the job when I got there and had updated the website while I was on the way. The publisher was also in the office, so I wasn't really needed all that much. The editor gave me a story on the weather to do, so I called a few places, including a meteorologist, and got the piece put together. We heard over the police scanner that there was an accident, car versus telephone pole, and I was about to go out to it (terrified of driving on the ice again) when my co-worker arrived. Since her car was already warmed up and she was already out there, the publisher cautiously walked out and asked her to do it.

The rest of deadline was relatively calm. We're one reporter down for the next two weeks, which is terrifying since we've already been down one reporter since the old editor left, but we're just barely hanging on. The new publisher wants things done differently, and has strong notions of how to work smarter and what to do, but he's sometimes a little... um... I'm not really sure how to describe it. I truly believe he's trying to make us better, but sometimes I feel like he's determined to do it by pointing out everything we are doing wrong, explaining how we ought to have done it, and hoping we'll be shamed into not doing it again. And while that's not an entirely fair way to describe it, there are days I feel like that's what is happening and feel a great deal of despair that I'll ever get it right.

In any case, today was not one of those days, although I got shamed at one point. The good thing is that I noticed the problem before he pointed it out. The bad thing is that I didn't think to fix it. Still, I think the mere fact that I'm beginning to spot problems is a move in the right direction.

A digression: yesterday I was in my office when the police scanner crackled and I heard the local dispatcher say, loudly and with a hint of panic, "We need EVERYONE back here right now." That caught my attention, and apparently at least one officer wasn't sure he'd heard her correctly and asked for a repeat. The dispatcher said, "We're having a flood and we need everyone back here as quickly as possible!" I jumped out of my chair and was thinking about rushing to the police station to see the flood, but instead went to my co-worker who covers the police beat and told her. Within moments she was out the door toward the police station. She managed to get photos and first-hand reports of the flood. You'll have to check out the website for the full story, but suffice to say it didn't stop our police from doing their job, nor did any prisoners escape from the jail (which is what I thought was happening when I heard the first message).

Back to today: lunch was a calm affair at home. The drive was pretty good, since most of the ice was melted. I usually, but not always, go home for lunch. If nothing else, it's an excuse to feed Inkwell, who gets very annoyed if we don't feed him regularly. I tell him I'd give him the whole day's food at once if he wouldn't gorge on it until he throws up and then eat more, but he has major food insecurity issues, so he gets little meals throughout the day instead. Inkwell and I usually have a little wrestling match when I get home, and he also likes to play tag with me. Both actions tend to cheer me up a bit (except for the biting. I don't like wrestling with biting). I went back to work feeling better.

After lunch I got together with the production lead and had my first lesson in InDesign. Now, to be fair, I've used it sporadically since I started working at the newspaper. But I do not know how to lay out pages yet, and the goal is for me to lay out my own pages. I've been trying to get time for a lesson in, but my schedule has been unforgiving and the adjustments we've been making have meant no time for lessons. So I was glad to get the time today.

For my first lesson, I put together tomorrow's school page. I quickly saw why it's advantageous to have writers doing the layouts, as we can edit some stories a little to make them fit better. In addition, I learned how difficult it really is to fit everything. I know why the former editor relied on filler material to make sure he could make the pages work. The new publisher is absolutely against using briefs as filler, so I suspect everyone is having a much harder time getting pages to work now. However, we have some "new" tools in our toolkits, including using more pull quotes and sub-headlines. In any case, I got the page tweaked, and while it may change before publication, at least I understand the concept behind it now.

Anyway, after the lesson I worked on other stories until I started to feel the drain on my brain. I have one more story to do for tomorrow, but I'd like a little more input on it, and I'm hoping I'll get a response to my Facebook plea. Ha. So I'll head in early for sure tomorrow morning.

I'm still not "there" yet, as far as what the new publisher wants. My stories are getting closer to his expectations, though I still need to work on breaking a few bad habits. My biggest weakness is finding my own stories. For four years, the former editor assigned most of my jobs. I'm now trying to find my own stories, and that's difficult for me to do. I'm not yet thinking "oh, that would be a good news story," when I hear about something. And when I do, I sometimes completely forget about it before I can find a notepad and jot it down, which really frustrates me. There's a story germ that I heard yesterday that I remember thinking "hey, there's a story there," but for the life of me I cannot figure out what it was. It's enough to make me want to bang my head against a wall in shame.

Anyway, today was one of the first good days I've had in a long time. I suspect it won't last, but I felt like I ought to share. I had a good day. Amazing, but true.


Elayne said...

Robin and I swear by our Stabilicers! I now have two pairs, one in black and one in red, just 'cause.