Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Gone digital

Some pix shot with the D70 (and some with a cheaper Nikon digital) I use at work.

Monday, April 09, 2007

A problem in journalism

The problem with being a journalist is one is perpetually behind. Now, when I work on any number of articles over five, I get literally behind and am forced to do the 12-hour-day (or two) early in the week to catch up. Instead of writing what I have during the latter portion of the week, I use that time to make more phone calls and inquires so that I will eventually be able to produce more content, i.e. articles.

Last week was a record on the low end -- I only had four articles in the paper, plus an editorial and photo page. Some things I bumped over to this week, making this week more hectic (by week I mean the news cycle week of our paper. Our week runs from Wednesday afternoon to Wednesday morning. Just when I need the two day weekend break the most, my new week begins).

But that’s not really what I meant. I mean one is never able to get to all of the things one would hope to be able to do to cover a community properly. Even though I’ve only been at the paper for a little over three months, I already have faced numerous challenges I’d love to sink my teeth into but did not have the time, resources, or in an occasional case, know-how, to do them.

I’d like to write it off to my own procrastination or slow writing style, but I can’t. For one thing, Beth said she felt this same thing when she was working as a newspaper reporter and editor.

You just never have the time to pursue all the things you want to pursue -- all the things you think you ought to pursue -- and so they perch there on the back of your brain, nagging at you for the eternity you remain employed at any particular edifice.

Some years back I interviewed the descendent of a Franklin County family who ran a mill that was considered historic, at least locally. She gave me some generic photos and sat down and spoke to me about the mill. The conversation was long, but she said nothing of interest. There are people who do that, who reveal all the mundane details of a person or place seemingly unaware (or unwilling) they are leaving out all the elements of a good tale. I never wrote that story and it still nags at me, like seven years later. Was she really that boring? Or did I just lack the ability to draw the good stuff out of her? I suppose I’ll never know.

So that’s a good example. Though in most cases, you don’t even get that far. You don’t even get the initial interview, or background research done, because you need to take a half day or day to do some research, which means you’d have to cut your story list down by five. That’s kind of what happened to me last week -- I wrote a feature based on an old man who walked into the office with three old newspapers. When I pointed to things featured in the papers (one of them was local and so featured half-century-old farming methods and industries) he would say: “I used to farm like that, pulling a plow behind two mules.”

So, after speaking to him for a bit, I sent him on his way. That weekend, I went over the three papers nearly word for word and extracted all the cool bits and pieces I thought would make an interesting story -- things that had some local or state reference, or that the old man had referenced. It took me hours to go through it all, and then to type it up. I re-interviewed the guy (his speaking style was very difficult to comprehend) and photographed him in his yard and put it all together for the paper. It came out pretty nice. Not beautiful, but cool.

I’ve got a few more of those historically-natured type of pieces on the back burner and several are getting pretty singed.

Eren makes me feel a little better. She’s a gung-ho J-school grad who is still in her first year working as a reporter. She works so fast she puts all of us to shame. She pumps out copious amounts of copy, on deadline, but complains of the same emotional/mental burnout I’ve always felt since my first year as a reporter. So, even when the day is done and she’s got time to burn, she’s too tired to think.

I feel better knowing that even someone who has time to spare runs out of steam at the end of the day. Meaning that I really shouldn’t fret too much over not getting to that story or not getting to that bit of personal writing I’d like to be doing every day or so.

Hence this late night entry, for a blog that is getting more and more stale. It doesn’t even matter if anyone reads it. I feel a tiny smidgen of relief just knowing I was able to get in that one extracurricular hour of writing. Even if it kills me tomorrow.

I was going to kill the blog, since I don't seem to have the time or the mental effort to get it these days. But I haven't done so, because I really enjoy my writing as of late and don't want to releagte my one talent solely to the field of work.

I just have this feeling, perched atop my mind like those hard-to-get-to story vultures, that if I kill my blog it'll be the death of me.