Thursday, December 23, 2004

Sit Here

Vol I, Issue I

Everything seemed simple enough. I was supposed to arrive at the Missourian, my new job for the next six months, and sit at the front desk-- play receptionist for eight hours. Except, as I got to the building I realized I was the only one in the entire office on a Saturday. My job, I was told, was to collect the day's news and present it to the editors -- at least that is what the little sheet of paper on the front desk said when I arrived. Well, there were no editors and the room seemed pretty quiet. Check, objective one done.

Part of the whole learning process to become a journalist appears to also mean bitch work as a secretary when no one wants to actually do the job themselves. In short, I learned that four 5 days in the next month I will have to sit for nine hours and answer the main phone, take message, run errands and sort mail -- and I am the one paying $1,500 a semester for this crap.

As the day went on I found other little notes across the desk. Do this, don't do this, try this but don't cry to us if it does not work. I was being taught how to work in this office via notes that people from the past had scrawled to remind future receptionists what to do.

Nothing happened for five hours. I just sat there and read up on just about every online newspaper in the country. I was not until about 4 p.m. (deadline) that an editor suddenly appeared.

"Where is my report?" he asked.

"There is nothing to report," was all I could say.

I had never seen this guy before and he obviously had never seen me. But he seemed OK with that. When I finally told him I did not know what to do, he did not seemed shocked or even angry. He just handed me another note -- this time two pages long and typed with all my tasks that I should have been doing that day. Apparently, the past receptionists did not get this memo.

Obituaries, Calendar of Events, news briefs from across the wires. All of this was supposed to complied for the 4 p.m. editor -- who had promptly arrived at 4:30. With a new sense of purpose I then asked, "where do I get these things?"

"Oh, well the fax machine is in the editors' office," the editor said.

The editors office was locked. It had to be unlocked by, get this, an editor. Apparently who ever this guy was, was not a full-time editor, so he did not have a key. Thank god the janitor did.

With the calendar of events out of the way, I moved on to the Obits - life stories for our younger readers. But with only two people actually staffing the newsroom on a Saturday (myself and my partner on the calendar desk) We still had to go through four different editors to get our six-inch obits in print.

We started with our assigning editor (the guy who arrived at 4:30). We then had to take the obit to the city editor. He looked over the six-inch piece I produced in five minutes and marked it up and down, adding comments like, "give me more detail, find the meaning behind this, etc. It then went to the supervising Night editor (guy, I presume, who will be there all night). It finally ended up on the desk of the executive editor. This whole process did not include the copy editor, copy chief and production manager that it went through after I left. By the time it was finished it was, get this, the exact same obit that I re-typed from the fax sent by the funeral home.

I feel like I just ran a marathon only to realize I had gone about five feet. By the end of this stint, my legs are going to be too tired to even attempt to kick someone in the ass.