Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Rookie

Life in the newsroom has been different every day I've been there. Since I've only been there three days, it probably shouldn't be a surprise.

What has been a surprise is how quickly I've been thrown into things. The stories I've done haven't been hard, breaking news, and I'm glad. I'm definitely not ready for that. But I had the centerpiece story in the local section (B1, for you newspaper people) on my first two attempts. I left my story in a bit of a mess on Tuesday, but the editor pulled it all together. I hated ditching it, but I had to take my mom to the eye doctor in the middle of an ice storm. (They can't do anything for her; she has macular degeneration, and it's gone too long. She was disappointed, as you might imagine.) It's hard only being in the office a short time. So many people I wanted to talk to were unavailable until after I left or only moments before I had to go, so I sort of pieced together what I could in a wild frenzy. It was ugly. I hadn't seen the photos or written my cutlines or sidebar. Geez. They ended up not doing a sidebar. Small wonder.

Today my editor wanted me to find the winners of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association's 2007 Better Newspaper Contest. Yesterday's intern tried and failed to get the list. The WNA doesn't release the names of the winners until after the award ceremony, which is Friday. Perhaps yesterday's intern just didn't know who to call. I did. I called Heidi. Heidi just had to talk to Bonnie and the list was mine. Mwahahahaha.

Heidi works at the WNA and happens to be one of my favorite people in the world. Hi, Heidi! She's a much better journalist than I am. I hope she gets a fabulous job at a rockin' newspaper after she gets out of school. Or before she gets out of school. Heidi had her name called at the WNA awards banquet last year and the year before.

My name might be called this year, but I can't really say until after the award ceremony Friday. My newspaper might just have won an award or two, as well, but I really can't say until after the award ceremony Friday.

I'm still figuring out names and personalities in the newsroom. Today I sat between George and Anita and kitty corner from Patricia and Doug. Whenever I think of Laurie's Doug, I always get his last name wrong because I'm thinking of the Doug I sat by today. (They're both newspaper people named Doug. I can be thick, OK?) The Doug I sat by today, Doug Erickson, did a fantastic special section last year about a terminally ill woman who wanted to die her way. It was the best piece I read in the paper last year. It was pretty cool to put a face with that article.

George and Patricia are kind of boisterous. Patricia brings fattening treats every day. Doug is quiet, so is Ken. Ken is so neat that he doesn't even have a trash can under his desk like everyone else. Dean is so quiet, I forget he is there. Karen and Anita come and go a lot. I like that. I can't sit still, either. Bill wanders around smiling, rarely speaking and rarely spoken to. Odd. He's one of my favorite writers at the paper, but he seems fairly well ignored by his coworkers. I wonder if he's a dick. He spoke to my feature writing class last year. He seemed like a fine guy. Amy (not me) knows everything. Beth is soft-spoken and busy and has vulture on desk. Its name is not Damien Day. Phil is tall and nice. Ron was incredibly welcoming. I'd love his job. Those are the ones I see the most. There are others, of course.

Everyone has been very willing to help. Most seem genuinely interested in me and in helping me get going. George, who used to be my second-favorite columnist until he got his column taken away, said I'm doing a good job and that I have a nice rhythm to my writing. Golly.


laurie said...

sounds fun. sounds familiar!

you see now why newspaper people seldom work regular 9-6 hours---the trick of getting hold of the right people, rewriting the stories, adding the sidebars, makes for long days. when i was a reporter i almost never got out on time.

for what they're paying you, you're doing the right thing to not work your fingers to the bone, but if you get hired full-time the expectations will change.

and don't dread hard, breaking news. in many ways it's much easier because it's so fast: you know what you have to get, you get it, there's no point in sweating the writing because it's pretty much just cutting to the chase and giving the news.

it's also a huge rush.

The Rotten Correspondent said...

Seems like you're thriving right where you are. And also that you're surrounded by a bunch of characters.

How exciting.

Sweet Irene said...

it sounds like you are in the right place to pick up lots of experience and that you have lots of people who are willing to give you the help you need. That's great! You will become a regular ace reporter one day.

Amy said...

Laurie, working at the paper is already interfering with my school work. That is, I don't want to go to school, I just want to go to the paper. I've got a couple of really cool stories lined up next week. I'm still sort of stunned I'm getting such good stuff so soon.

I still dread the breaking news, though. I want more experience and comfort before I do breaking news. One of my problems is I don't always know what I'm supposed to get. I sit down to write, then realize how much I've forgotten to ask about. Duh. Can't pull that crap with breaking news.

RC, this bunch of characters is pretty fun. It's great to be in an environment where people want to help and can.

Irene, I'm so lucky to be where I am. I hope I do become an ace reporter one day. I'm picking things up just being able to listen to people do their work. It's truly awesome.

MJ Krech said...

I am just loving your own series of Birth of a Hack! Great fun to see your beginnings in the field of journalism. You go, Amy! And keep the stories coming! They're wonderufl!