RECAP: my first week at a small newspaper

Hey everyone!

Before I start my recap, I want to thank everyone who has visited & left comments (either on here, on Facebook, or messaged me via other methods) so far! :-)

Also, this blog entry is extremely long and I apologize for anyone who wanted to attempt to read, so I don’t blame anyone for not reading this thoroughly (or at all). I think this entry will really just be for my own look-back in the future and I think my next entries will be less detailed, and in a more… lessons learned, type of format.

Before I go on any further, I’ll explain that at this particular newspaper, there is one editor, one sports reporter, and one news reporter. As I came on board, I became the second news reporter, and myself, the original news reporter, and the sports reporter, are the ‘Editorial’ team. There’s also a publisher, some people in sales and accounting, some people who work on ads and newspaper layout design, and the front desk secretary. The Editorial team and the editor, all have their desks and computers in one open-office area. My desk is pretty much in the prime spot where all of my co-workers and my editor can see what I’m doing at all times. It’s a very small newspaper.

Okay so before I start my recap from Monday May 5, I just wanted to tell everyone that, overall, I really enjoyed my first week working at the small newspaper. Please keep that in mind as you read about my Monday.

Monday, May 5:
This was the most boring day of my life thus far.

(Ha, at least with the above disclaimer, you know it gets better! :) )

Prior to Monday, I had been told that on Mondays there would be a ‘story meeting’. I was also told what my first assignment would be. The newspaper has a ‘Community Awareness’ section that they do every few weeks that basically spotlights a volunteer organization and kind of puts the word out in St. Albert that, yes, this organization does exist and is impacting the community. Therefore, prior to Monday, I had already arranged to do an interview with the executive director at that particular organization for 1:30PM Monday. I had also spent Sunday typing up the questions I planned to ask the director.

Bad idea.

Why? You’ll see.

I got into the office on Monday at 8:30AM and since work didn’t officially start until 9:00AM, I had nothing to do. I didn’t want to go on Facebook or browse the SYTYCD forums and websites like I usually would do on a computer because I didn’t want to make a bad impression. Understandable, right?

I decided then, to transfer my Word file with the questions I had typed up for the interview I was going to be doing later that day, from my USB flashdrive to my office computer. Turns out I had saved the Word file from my PC Microsoft Word 2007, which saves files as .docx and is therefore unreadable on a Mac. Moment of panic. I quickly tried to think of how to fix this problem. On the Macs at school, I had run into the same problems (usually I remember to save them as .doc files for compatability but of course, if a bad thing that can happen in my first half hour of work can happen, it happens.) On the Macs at school they had an automatic converting program that would convert the .docx’s into a readable file for the Mac’s Word, but the newspaper computer didn’t have this. I asked my editor if he had Microsoft Word 2007 but he said he didn’t, and besides, he had a Macbook.

So I had to come up with, and re-type, the questions all over again.

Which, as it turns out, didn’t take me very long.

After I finished typing up the questions, the other reporters had arrived and the story meeting was called. Now during school, coming up with a story idea was the hardest part of the program for me. Interviewing people, that’s fine. Coming up with questions for the interview, even better. Coming up with a relevant and interesting idea to pitch as a story? Terrified of it, and it hurts my brain.

Over the weekend I had come up with one possible idea for a story that I ended up pitching and it was actually pretty well received. The terror subsided and the story meeting quickly wrapped up but, I still had about 4 hours until I needed to leave to do the interview.

And so I sat.

And I sat.

And I sat.

I sat in front of the computer and, for fear of making a bad impression by being caught on Facebook or, as I wrote earlier, the SYTYCD forums/websites, I instead browsed St. Albert-related websites, along with very brief skims of the Edmonton Journal and the Edmonton Sun online.

For 4 hours I did this.

The other news reporter, the sports reporter, and the editor, were all busy doing something on their computers. I contemplated starting on the story I had pitched, but I was scared I would be finished that all too soon and then I wouldn’t have anything to do tomorrow.

As I said, Monday was the most boring day of life. If joking about suicide wasn’t so frowned upon, I would write that I wanted to kill myself. (Well, I guess I wrote it anyway, so there you go, haha.) I wasn’t sure when I would be allowed to take a lunchbreak, and I had forgotten to bring my lunch that day anyway. As I sat there trying to keep my eyes open, I noticed that the editor and the other two reporters had taken their lunches out and were eating at their desks. I panicked, thinking, would I have to eat my lunch at my desk for the duration of my time at this newspaper?!

When it came time to go meet the director of the organization for the interview, I left hurriedly and happily, happy to get out of the office, happy to get away from the front of that computer (which is shocking, as I generally love sitting in front of a computer.)

The interview went well. I thought I asked good questions, I thought I asked enough questions. The director didn’t want her own picture taken for the paper so I was allowed to go down and take pictures of workers and people that were a part of the organization (which I guess I didn’t say yet, but the organization is called the LoSeCa foundation and it helps adults with developmental disabilities.) After I finished at LoSeCa, I drove (sadly) back to the newspaper, but stopped at a 7-11 to buy a wrap for my lunch (which I ended up eating at the desk…)

I transcribed the recording of the interview onto the computer, which I did very slowly because I was finally so happy I actually had something to do, I didn’t want to finish quickly and have nothing to do again. I remembered exactly how painful the extreme boredom I had experienced that morning was, and I didn’t want the scenario to repeat itself again. After I transcribed the interview into notes, I started writing the actual story. I wrote very slowly because, again, I didn’t want to finish too quickly and have nothing to do again. As you can see, the fear of having nothing to do became a dominant theme that day, and when I was 5:00PM and I was packing up to leave, I thought of how I was going to survive the next day.

As you can see, my Monday was awful. It was not that I had too much work to do, it wasn’t that I couldn’t handle the workload or that I didn’t know how to do the interview or how to write the story… it was the fact that I didn’t think there would be enough to do to keep me busy, and this, above all, freaked me out.

Monday was a bad day.

Tuesday, May 6:
Tuesday started off great, which I took as a good sign.

There was a press conference at 9:30AM announcing a new women’s health initative and I was asked to go cover it. I went, it was great, I had a great spot by the stage so my recording was super clear. I asked a few questions one-on-one to the event organizers after their speeches, and just the fact that I wasn’t sitting in the office with my eyes glazed over, bored, like on Monday, was a great feeling in itself.

I spent the rest of the day finishing my story from Monday, transcribing the recording from the conference I went to that morning, writing and finishing the story for that conference, and taking my lunch outside the office, away from my desk (yay!) Even with all of that, however, I still had at least two hours of extra nothing-to-do time at the end of the day before home time, so the fearful feeling came back by the end of the day as I thought of what I could do on Wednesday. Luckily, at the end of the day, my editor got a media email from the Morinville RCMP saying there was going to be a high school drinking and driving mock collision taking place Wednesday morning and media would be welcome. I immediately offered to go and report on it, and my fear of boredom on Wednesday went away.

Wednesday, May 7:
The high school where the mock collision was taking place was outside of Edmonton, further than St. Albert, and would require me to take the highway. I’ve never taken the highway before, so I was kind of scared. At the same time, I was excited because highway driving is something I would eventually have to experience, and I was glad this new job was giving me the opportunity to do it.

I had a lot of fun at the mock collision, just like I had fun at the press conference on Tuesday. It was a new experience and it was cool to be on the media side of things. I talked to the RCMP before the collision took place, took pictures during the collision, and interviewed the drama students who took part in the collision after it was over. The students were really enthusiastic about the event and excited to talk to me – excited to be featured in a newspaper. Oh! Driving on the highway turned out to be really easy!

I got back to the office, transcribed my recordings, and wrote my story (interview, transcribe, story writing appears to be the general routine here).

Before I go on with what is already a 1700+ blog entry (sorry, I really didn’t think this would be that big…) I will add that apparently on Wednesdays, everyone stays late to put the stories on the pages using InDesign.

So by 5:00PM, I knew I wasn’t going anywhere, but then something came through on the police scanner that my editor thought sounded big enough to get a picture out of, or maybe a story if there was something there, and I offered to go cover it.

It went amazing!! The driver of the single vehicle collision wasn’t hurt or anything, so that was good. But his van was pretty beat up, and then I discovered upon asking the residents who were watching the police and firecrew clean up the site, that the intersection has been a hotspot for collisions and speeding ever since the red lights were put up. The residents were so upset and so passionate when they told me how their neighbourhood has been ruined by this intersection. It was soo interesting, and what was originally just supposed to be me taking a picture of the scene, ended up being, what I think, was a great story. I had a lot of fun.

When I got back to the office I transcribed my notes and wrote the story.

As it turns out, the computer I use doesn’t have a compatible InDesign version like with all of the other computers in the building and their licenses ran out for any new InDesign version. Therefore, I didn’t have to stay as late as everyone else to work on page layout because, I couldn’t.

I decided that the next day I would start working on the story idea I had pitched, so even though I was slightly worried I would end up being bored with nothing to do the next day, I wasn’t as worried about boredom as I was, say, Monday night.

Thursday, May 8:
I googled businesses I would need to talk to for my story, and I wrote out questions I’d need to ask people. I took my time doing this, as with my previous work, because if I finished at the pace that I would at normal-Linda-speed, I’d be done very quickly and yes, that impending boredom was on the edge of my mind the entire time. Then I helped copyedit the stories that were going to press tomorrow.

After everyone helped copyedit, they kind of started reading newspapers. So I did that as well.

I wrote out what I was going to do for the rest of the day, and I found that having a schedule outline really really helped in the having-something-to-do-at-all-times thing. It really helped. I also found that reading the newspaper somewhat helped me come up with more story ideas (yay!)

And as it turns out, everyone leaves early on Thursday because the pages have been laid out, copyedited, changes made, and sent to press so I guess Thursday, as well as Friday, is the wrapping up of the news week. Oh, there’s also another story meeting on Thursdays but it’s mostly to discuss what sporting events would be going on over the weekend.

Thursday I think was a very important day for me because on Thursday I realized that if I set out hourly goals and things to do, time actually goes by considerably quicker and I am not in the state that I was on Monday.

Friday, May 9:
As I wrote, Thursdays and Fridays are the wrapping up of the news week I guess, since the next story meeting isn’t until Monday. I did one interview for the story idea I had pitched at the start of the week, and I was also sent to a little event at a local high school to take pictures for next week’s paper. The sports reporter didn’t even show up Friday, because he attends a lot of the sports games and does interviews over the weekend. The other news reporter left at about noon, and I wasn’t going to leave without being told to but about an hour later, the editor told me to feel free to go home for the weekend. I hung around for a little bit longer and then left for the day. I felt bad for leaving early, but then I saw my editor leave about a minute after I did so the bad feeling went away and I was absolutely stoked that my weekend would be starting early! :D

To conclude…

What started off as a very depressing week, one where I thought I wouldn’t have enough to do to keep me busy, ended up really well.

I wrote 4 stories that were published in the May 9 edition of the Saint City News, in St. Albert and I am excited to write more.

I had a moment near the beginning of the week where the lack of things to do seriously caused me to question whether or not working at a newspaper is something I could do as a profession. By the end of the week, I wasn’t worried anymore. My journalism teachers have always told us that to be in this profession, you really need to have a passion for it. At the beginning of the week, I was questioning the level of passion I had. But by the end of the week, I felt a lot more confident at this job. I do have a passion for this industry and I really do think that, between my experiences with print journalism, and my future experiences in broadcast journalism, I can really excel in this field and get to where I want to go in the future.

I am also defintiely going to change the format of these recaps because not only did that take me FOREVER to write up, but I don’t think anyone (including me), will be able to read through this entire thing without resorting to extreme skimming.


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