Thursday, August 7, 2014

What I do at my job

I asked Lorna what she would like to see more of, here.
Her reply: "I haven't quite figured out what you do at your job." Something like that.
I have been thinking, How would I describe my job?

It's been a learning experience.
Not that I haven't worked for newspapers before, but it was in a different capacity, and Wadena News is one of a kind.

It's been around since 1908 and has a readership that spans generations of families.
People move away and still subscribe to it so they can keep up with folks back home. We mail all over the country as well as to 21 communities locally.
Some people drive into town on Mondays just because that's the day the paper will be in the mail.

My job is to relieve the owner and publisher of some of her editing and layout duties so she can concentrate on other essential areas.

I soon offered to manage the Opinions page, where we print commentaries and letters to the editor, and the This and That column, which is a hodgepodge of items too last-minute or too short for an article but of some interest.

Then, I read. And read. And read.

I'm an incorrigible proofreader. If I notice a typo or error, I can't help myself: I have to fix it. I read every article and column that goes in, and everything else there is time to read before the paper goes to press on Friday. I write captions for photos, headlines for articles, and subheads for columns and correspondent news.
Scott parks in the shade of the maple tree when home during the heat of the day.

Then I read. And read. And read. That's what editors do, tightening and polishing as they go, trying not to be too heavy-handed even when they're dying to rewrite something completely. Editors are improvers, clarifyers, and nitpickers.

Coming from a decade as a subject editor with the Canadian Encyclopedia, my editing skills till now have been geared toward the facts, the facts, and nothing but the facts, with vignettes of colour sneaked in whenever possible. One time I edited a biography of a well-known First Nations actor who wanted it to list the names of his dozen grandchildren and his half-dozen great-grandchildren, of whom he was naturally proud and who, he was right to assume, were important life accomplishments of his own as he and his wife were raising some of them. I had to say sorry, but our bios can't include all that detail beyond what you have accomplished in your career.

Here, however, it is just the opposite. Since everybody knows everybody, and knows everybody else's immediate families and cousins, not to mention everybody else's neighbours, and usually their neighbours' dogs' names, too, we want to put names galore into the articles, and mention who the subject's parents and grandparents are, and where they were all raised.

After 10 months in the e-chair I am still learning how to look at community news, what requires more coverage than other things and why, and how, and so on. When they said you can learn something new every day, I think they may have been talking about those of us who work at newspapers.