Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Tuesday in the life of a small town reporter

I’m writing this late on Tuesday night.
Tuesdays are my long days at work. We’re a weekly paper, the Altavista Journal, and we come out each Wednesday. So we’re due at press Tuesday nights.
My mind is still on work, so I thought I’d share a look at what a Tuesday is like for this small town reporter.

I took this photo of my desk at work one day. Notice the bottles. I get thirsty!

*I arrived at work a little before 10:00 a.m., late morning because I knew it would be a late night. I had already written my stories for this week—three bylined stories (stories that show I wrote them) and three briefs (stories with no bylines, usually rewrites of news releases).

*I checked my email, looking for a news release from the Virginia State Police. I had heard about a fatal crash in the county overnight. Because I hadn’t received an email, I sent one to the communications contact with the VSP in Richmond asking for information.

*Our news staff is made up of our editor and two staff writers, who are me and another reporter. The news editor at one of our sister papers used to work for the Journal, and he still helps with layout on Tuesdays.

*The four of us met with the advertising manager at about 10:30 to decide how many pages to include in this week’s issue. A lot depends on the number of ads and the amount of copy we have.

*Once that’s decided, the news staff figures out what goes on each page. Page one is especially important, and deciding what goes there can take a lot of discussion.

*We finished up our meeting around 11:30 and all but the editor started laying out pages. We use Adobe InDesign for layout. As we finish up a page, we print them out on large paper and pass them on to the editor to read. After we’ve corrected pages, we change them to PDF format to send to the press. We also print the PDFs to check headlines, dates, etc. one more time. It’s a process that goes on all day.

My work computer showing one of the pages of the paper in InDesign. The photo on the upper right corner of the monitor shows Thunder Cat, who we lost in 2009.

*Larry picked me up for lunch at 12:10 and we ate Mexican.

*I returned to work and continued working on layout.

*At 1:45 I drove 17 miles to Rustburg, our county seat, to cover a 2:30 governmental committee meeting, a 4:00 Board of Supervisors meeting (the Board is the governing body of the county), and public hearings at 5:30.

*I got back to Altavista at 7:00. No one else was in the office: the editor was covering a town council meeting, one reporter was covering a high school volleyball game, and the one that works on Tuesdays only was covering something in his own town.

*I had received a news release from the state police about the fatal wreck, so I wrote that up. I also wrote a story based on the Board of Supervisors meeting.

One of my notebooks. Sometimes I have a hard time reading my own handwriting.

*I put the stories on the pages and worked on readying copy and photos for the website.

*The editor got back at 9:00. He wrote his story, and I put that on the page. Meanwhile, the other reporter returned.

*We worked out some corrections and my co-reporter sent the pages to the press over the Internet via Fetch.

*I got home a little after 11:00. Larry met me at the door, and my kitties fussed at me for being gone all day long. I made over everyone.

And that was a Tuesday in the life of this small town reporter. I don’t have to follow meetings every Tuesday—that usually happens only once a month. On Tuesdays when I’m in the office all day, I also help with editing and proofing.
And the other days of the week on the job? That’s another story!

What has been your favorite job ever?



35 comments:

  1. gee whiz that is a packed Tuesday-I enjoyed following you through the day. Your office has a pleasant and home like look about it and you had me in giggles when you said that you sometimes have a difficult time reading your own handwriting ;-). It isn't so easy being a small town reporter I see!! My job was always as a nurse in an Emergency Room, I loved it, tho my favourite place was when I did a locum in a small remote village in BC where the inhabitants numbered less than 2000...of which a large number were Native Indians-

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    1. Thank you, Lynn. Yes, my handwriting is pretty bad, especially when I write fast. :-) Being a nurse is a wonderful profession. I'm sure you touched many people's lives in a positive way.

      So good to hear from you and hope you're feeling better!

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  2. Oh Tina this was fascinating I never understood the workings of a small town reporter it looks so glamorous in those 1930's movies. It sure sounds like exhausting fulfilling work. Good job.
    My favourite job I have to say is the one I do now for free so it it really a job:)?
    Farming keeps me outside and connected to nature and that seems to suit me just fine. Hug B

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    1. Thanks, B. No, being a small town reporter is not glamourous, but I do get to meet some interesting people.

      It may not be a job, but farming is work for sure. I'm so glad you get so much joy from it.

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  3. i loved this glimpse into your work day. Quite interesting! You have a lot packed into each day don't you? I have always felt that small-town stories are far more fascinating than big-city stories because there is more of a sense of community.

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    1. Thanks, Keith. Each day is different. Some days are go, go, go, while others are slower. I like the variety.

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  4. i loved this. i've dreamed of being a writer/reporter for a newspaper, but i know it takes a lot of work to cover stories. thanks for giving us a glimpse of it all.

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    1. Thanks, Theresa. Remember that it's never too late--you can submit stories or photos to your local paper and see what happens! Meanwhile, I always enjoy your stories and pictures on your blog. :-)

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  5. WoW tina....REAL work!! your handwriting looks a lot like shorthand and i am available to clean up your desk ;)

    i am/was a nurse, the only grown-up job i ever had!!

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    1. Thanks, Debbie. You're not the only one who has asked me if I used shorthand. It's my own version of it. Ha ha

      And I could definitely use your help in cleaning up my desk. :-)

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  6. Great to follow you through a day of work and see this part of your life!

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  7. Whew! Sounds like a lot of work. Thanks for showing us a glimpse into your "other" life.

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    1. Thanks, Nadine. Sometimes it's a lot of work. Days like today are slower. That's nice to have after a day like yesterday.

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  8. You must be very well organized to fit it all in. That is a late night!

    I have enjoyed many jobs, but my all time favorite was when I worked for a vet for a few months after I graduated from college, while I was looking for a 'real' job. Oh how I loved helping animals all day. The vet I worked for was awesome, and he was always teaching me and let me assist with surgeries. It was such a fun experience.

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    1. Thanks, Lisa. In some ways I'm very organized. In other ways--well, look at my desk. :-)

      Your job with the vet sounds awesome! I would love to do that, too.

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  9. You have to like a schedule that is unplanned.
    Mt favorite job? Retirement! Well no, I was a teacher for 37 years. Like you, some days it wasn't my favorite job.

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    1. Thanks, Red. Retirement sounds good to me! I bet teaching was a very rewarding career.

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  10. I interned at a newspaper one summer while I was in college, Tina, and this email brought it all back to me. I was the copyeditor, and the night before we went to press, I could be there until midnight!

    I don't think I could have kept up with that for more than that summer!

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    1. Thanks, Jackie. The pace can be overwhelming at times. Tuesdays are definitely stressful. I don't think I could do this at a daily paper.

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  11. Wow, you sure had a busy day. I would love to be a reporter or writer for some kind of small town newspaper or a charity newsletter or something. It's kind of cool that you get to meet some interesitng people. I did too when I was still a member of a political party. A national senator (note that I live in the Netherlands, so a very small country) came to my city once when I was in my senior year of high school, and I got talking to him about my final research project for high school graduation, which was on one of the topics he used to teach at university.

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    1. Thanks, Astrid. Maybe someday you can write for a newspaper or newsletter--I hope so, if that's what you want to do. I was 46 when I got the job I have now, so I started late. :-)

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  12. Hi Tina, I can see why you have trouble reading your own handwriting. It is nice to see your writing, though, thanks for sharing it. :) My favourite job was when I worked in the pet supply field. I worked in a store that sold pet supplies...and no animals. It was great.

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    1. Thanks, Linda. Yes, my handwriting is so bad, I guess it's a good thing I can type fast! :-) Working in a pet supply store sounds fun, especially if you were around other people who liked animals.

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  13. Love learning more about your job Tina -- must be a calling, because there seems to be so much prep before you get to see your final product. That would drive me nuts.

    Favorite job? I was an insurance fraud investigator for many years before I retired to the farm in 2006.

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    1. Thanks, Nancy. I guess it does seem like a lot of prep, though the weeks go by fast. Seems like we get one paper out and it's time to start thinking about the next one.

      Insurance fraud investigation sounds very interesting. I bet you have some great stories to tell!

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  14. Wow! Cool look into your world, Tina, thanks! I have a deadline-driven writing job, too, but it's different from yours...maybe someday I'll do a "day in the life of a catalog copywriter" piece!

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    1. Thanks, Jean. That would be interesting--I'd like to know about copywriting!

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  15. Nice post, great blog, following :)

    Good Luck :)

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  16. Wow- that's a long day. Do you have to go to different events every day, or just on the one day? I could never be a reporter...I would have a hard time keeping my opinion out of the story! This was very interesting, thanks for sharing!

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  17. Oooooh, i like your desk - Thank you for sharing about your day.
    I think it would be swell to write like that.

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  18. I loved reading about your day. I was an editor of my high school paper, but chose not to go into journalism, no matter how much my teacher encouraged me. I never forgot the hectic but fun times. By the time I hit my thirties I realized that I really should have taken classes in college because there were so many times the skill would have come in handy. Here I am in my 50's still thinking I should do that.

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