RECAP: my tenth week at a small newspaper

This is a long one..

Monday, July 7:
The week started off very well because I had a good amount of ideas for stories so the story meeting went smooth as ever. I find that 3 story ideas and up are great for the week, plus you know you’re going to be assigned maybe a press conference or something to cover, or even just an event to go take a photo of later in the week, thus everything works out smoothly that way.

At the end of this week would be the big iPhone release in Canada (worldwide) so I definitely wanted to do a write-up on that. I ended up calling a Rogers (the exclusive iPhone carrier in Canada) store in the city and talking to the manager for almost an hour! He told me a looooot of great information and he said it in such a colorful way, it would have made for great quotes except that throughout the entire conversation, every time I tried to get his permission to use his quotes and/or get the spelling of his last name, he kept saying “no no no no you can’t use me in the paper!” Originally when the phone call first started and he said he didn’t want to be quoted in the paper, I was all set to hang up and move on, but then he kept talking! So I probably asked him about 5 times throughout the hour, ‘Are you sure I can’t use what you’ve just said in the paper? I promise you won’t get in trouble I just want to quote you for some of the basic stuff you’re saying, nothing controversial.’ Because honestly, nothing he was saying was controversial! He did end up giving me his last name but then he called back a few minutes later and told me he checked with HIS boss (even though he is the manager) and his boss told him he could be fired if his name shows up in the paper.

Everyone has to talk to the corporate head office media person.

After all of this, my editor, the other news reporter, the sports reporter, and myself were talking about whether I could or couldn’t use his information since technically he had given me his first and last name and he had said the things that he said. The only thing stopping me from quoting him in my story was the fact that he requested ‘Please don’t use what I’ve said in the paper, I don’t want to be quoted, I could be fired.’ The other news reporter said I could go ahead and use it but honestly, I did not feel right about that at all.

So this instance was my first ethical journalistic dilemma, I guess you could say. To put it in dramatic terms, anyway. It wasn’t even a serious story, like there are definitely stories out there where you respect what a person has told you and asked you and if they don’t want to be identified then that is completely fine because they could be killed or something that is actually worthy of the dramatics, you know?

But an iPhone story?

I found it completely silly that the guy was that worked up about it, it’s not like he was saying ‘Rogers is secretly plotting world domination via the iPhone sales… ‘ or something like that, you know what I mean?

Either way, I chose not to quote or identify him in the end and I stand by it because I honestly would have felt awful knowing that he’d pick up the paper and see himself quoted and then 1) thinking of the nasty reporter who promised she wouldn’t use his name and information but did anyway and 2) worrying over the fact that he could now be fired.

STILL, I found the situation to be completely more dramatic than necessary, but it was an interesting experience nonetheless.

I did end up speaking to the corporate head office media person, I was actually really surprised how on top of things she was because she called me back almost immediately after I left her a message. (I wasn’t in the office when she called back though so I had to try to call her back on Tuesday). I thought maybe I would get less priority as she’s probably never even heard of the city or paper that I work for (if I had said I’m with the Edmonton Journal or the Edmonton Sun or the National Post or something, I would know that she’d be getting back to me ASAP but the fact that she gave as much attention to my small newspaper was really pleasant, actually.

Also today I drove into a small town outside of the city because they were having a grand opening of a teen centre there. The people were really nice (I’m finding that most people I’ve dealt with during my time with this paper thus far have been fairly nice), but man oh man was it the most dead and boring grand opening of a teen centre ever.

Not that I have a lot of prior teen centre grand opening experience.

I also talked to the president of the community nonprofit organization I would be writing a little highlighted feature on this week via the phone, while setting up a face-to-face interview with the vice president, for Tuesday.

All-in-all, a very productive day and I can’t recall thinking if I was bored or not.

Tuesday, July 8:

I had a few other stories to do this week that aren’t of great importance and I’ve already forgotten what they were about really, but I’m pretty sure I made phone calls for these other stories pretty early on, on Tuesday, and I remember thinking to myself ‘Hey, it’s not even 10AM yet and you’ve already got so much done and out of the way.’

Of course, at this newspaper job to date, I’ve tried to ditch the whole getting-things-done-fast-approach that I am very familiar with, instead opting for the drag-things-out-as-long-as-you-possibly-can-because-if-you-don’t-then-you’re-going-to-end-up-with-nothing-to-do-and-THUS-be-extremely-bored, mentality.

I was happy I did get a lot of calls and things done and out of the way early on Tuesday though, but it’s kind of a tossup really. On the one hand, I love getting things done and then you don’t have to worry about it anymore, but on the other hand, I still recall my absolute terror over the idea of being deathly bored like I was my first week here, and that memory of terror and extreme boredom often keeps me motivated to drag projects out for as long as I can (even though, I really want to assure the 0 readers that I have, that I am one hundred per cent capable of working so much quicker than I actually do at this job!) There is just not enough news to cover in the week to try and get things done ASAP, you know? In fact, there could be as much news as ever, but it’s the dependence on having people pick up their phones / be in their offices / be willing to talk / or call you back, that is really the most time-consuming aspect of this job.

Case in point – when I tried to call back the Rogers corporate head office media spokesperson. I must have called her 15 times today (Tuesday) but each time I called, I couldn’t get through to even leave her a message because her voicemail was full each time! This I can understand though, since the iPhone was being released later this week and there was a whole load of controversy up on in the Internet over it. I can just imagine her phone must have been ringing off the hook that day, the week post-iPhone release, and basically just since the iPhone is coming to Canada/Rogers was announced.

I have come to the conclusion that this job, being a reporter and just the career as a journalist itself, really depends on the availability of others. If you need someone to talk to you, and they don’t get back to you right away or before deadline, you are screwed. Not only are you screwed in that you don’t have a story, but you are screwed with your day-to-day activities as well because you can’t do anything with the story until the person you need talks to you!

(Of course there are alternatives, find someone else to talk to, etc. But still!)

I don’t like depending on others to make my work a success. I don’t ever do that and I’m kind of disappointed that this job relies so heavily on other people. Hm.

Wednesday, July 9:
This Wednesday was extremely productive.

I had put off transcribing any of my interviews until today, simply so that I would be kept busy the entire day. This plan worked.

I transcribed and wrote out my 10 interviews and 4 stories pretty much the whole day. Again, I worked as slowly as I could. After lunch I forced myself to spend at least an hour writing each story, even though I’m quite positive I could have finished the stories in half that time at my normal speed. (I hope I’m not coming off as thinking that I am overly awesome or anything, I just work and get work done really efficiently normally, this is a quality of mine).

As Wednesday’s are stay-late and help with laying-out-the-paper Days, I did just that. The only difference this Wednesday was, normally previous Wednesday’s after I finish laying out the necessary News-related pages, I say, is there anything else I can do? And he says, nope looks like that’s it, you can take off. This was not the case this week. After I finished my news-related page layouts, I asked, is there anything else I can do? And my editor said, well not really for news but if you want to lay out some sports pages then that’d be great.

Of course I wasn’t going to say, AWW I DON’T WANT TO I WANT TO GO HOME AND WATCH TV, like I was thinking in my head. Instead I said, Sure! Sounds good! And I ended up laying out about 4 of the 8 sports pages before my editor said I could take off.

I did end up leaving the latest that I have since I started this job, but overall it wasn’t too bad. I think I left around 8:10PM. Usually I leave around 7:30PM on Wednesdays…

All of this, everyone should remember is completely worth it as I get off typically around 3:00PM on Thursdays and 1:00PM on Fridays. Ah Early Day Fridays, my favourite, ever.

Thursday, June 10:
Thursday copyediting day.

I can’t recall what else happened today, so probably nothing important..

Oh wait, our next week’s issue is going to feature this ‘Best of’ feature that the paper puts out every year. Apparently the paper has been collecting votes and stuff the past few weeks for residents/reader’s favourite stores and places in the city and the winners will be in next week’s issue.

It comes in a little pull-out so there’s also room for a few mini-stories about some of the businesses that won in different categories. My editor picked five businesses to possibly highlight and I chose the ‘Best/Favourite Pet Grooming’ category.

Also today, I probably searched for story ideas today and I probably found them.

Friday, June 11:
iPhone Launch day!

I went of course.

Not to buy an iPhone, but to cover it! I got some pictures, I talked to some people who had lined up, I saw the chaos (well, this city is small so chaos is a pretty dramatic word to use in this situation, it was definitely not anything crazy like you’d see in a Tokyo cell phone store or even a Rogers in Edmonton, but still, I would say chaos, as the employees there were pretty panicked and not used to that many (only under 20) people at the store at once.) Haha.

It was fun though.

One of the people waiting to get his phone activated was looking at his watch every couple minutes and saying Ahhh… I have to get to work, to which I responded ‘Being here is work for me so I’m not going anywhere.’ Haha. It was a fun little experience.

After I got back to the office, I decided to do some editor-impressing (and also productively pass the time and ALSO prove to myself that I can get things done at ridiculously quick speeds if I am actually on normal mode) by calling the owner of the Best/Favourite Pet Grooming category, interviewing her, transcribing her interview, and writing out the story, all in about an hour and a half.

When that was done and out of the way it was noon and it was just me & my editor left. I decided, well I guess noon is too early, even for Early Day Fridays, so I browsed the Internet, reading the news and seeing if I could generate anymore story ideas, until 1PM.

At 1PM I decided, for the first time since I started, to ask if it was okay if I left. I mean, up until that point I had always waited until my editor told me ‘There’s nothing really going on here, feel free to take off,’ but so yeah. That day I said ‘Well I’m pretty much done everything for the day –Editor’s Name-, would it be okay if I took off?’ and he said ‘Yeah for sure, I’m probably going to take off pretty soon myself.’

So, it was good. He didn’t bite my head off for asking to leave, which to be fair, I don’t think he would. He’s actually a pretty awesome editor. But then again I haven’t given any reason for him to show any other side of him…


Haha, just kidding. I have no plans to bring out any scary side of my editor for the rest of my time at this paper, which as it happens, is only a few more weeks.

I can’t believe how fast summer has been flying by.


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