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Editor’s Notebook - Just One Big, Happy Idiosyncrasy

POSTED March 24, 2010 12:18 a.m.

After several weeks of personnel shuffling, between an (away from the job) injury, one previously scheduled vacation and another mini vacation by various staff members, it looks like we are back up to our full complement of reporters.

At least for now. But spring break looms, one reporter is planning a wedding and a couple of others will be mini-vacationing over the Easter holiday. It’s hard to keep up with these people. And I see them five or six days a week.

While we do the Oakdale, Riverbank and Escalon papers, our office is located in Oakdale and John Branch (Riverbank editor) and I (Escalon) head out to our towns several times a week to cover events and maintain contact with people in the community.

John was off after an injury and everyone took up some of the slack, as we ‘tag teamed’ coverage of Riverbank. He was back for a week, then left on a vacation he had scheduled before he got hurt. So we were back to our ‘who’s on first?’ discussions about who had time to go to Riverbank to cover this or that, make sure everything that needed attention got it.

As a news staff, we work together cooperatively, as some items are of regional interest and can be included in all three papers. Such as our ‘People Poll’ question of the week, whereby we send out an email to the people on our ‘responders’ list to answer everything from questions dealing with current events to the ‘fluff’ ones like your favorite comfort food or movie. We, in fact, are looking to expand our ‘pool’ of local responders that would be willing to be on the email list and offer their thoughts for publication. We have some people that agreed to do it the first time around and have actually never answered a question. Others have answered a couple of times, and some answer every week. With a larger group, we can rotate and have more flexibility in who we use and provide a wider range of opinions. We need participants from all three communities, Escalon, Oakdale and Riverbank — and those in the areas of Knights Ferry, Valley Home, Farmington and Collegeville — that we cover, so if you would like to be a part of the pool, let us know. You can simply email me at mjackson@oakdaleleader.com to get the process started.

Speaking of the ‘fluff’ questions, features writer Teresa Hammond recently did a piece for Oakdale (coinciding with the Oscars), getting staff members, from front office, to production, to sales people, to tell what their favorite movie was. A wide variety of responses came in and reporter Kim Van Meter was describing the favorite that she finally settled on, the trilogy Lord of the Rings, and discussed some of what made it her favorite. One of those things was the Elvish language that was part of the culture. Well, my sister was the huge Lord of the Rings fan in our family, starting with the prequel, The Hobbit. Since our maiden name was Bilby, she quickly became known as ‘Bilbo’ — after the main character Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit — and kept that nickname for quite a while. I read the book but never had any interest in following it up and certainly never learned the language the way my sister and several of her friends did.

However, in proofreading the article in which the staff members submitted their ‘best movie ever’ reviews, I saw Kim’s reference to Elvish language and thought, well, that’s not right. There were elves and hobbits and trolls but certainly the language would have referenced an ‘elf’ (singular) and be called Elfish, not Elvish (which I thought sounded too much like a language based on Elvis Presley.)  Apparently, thinking was my first mistake. Not checking with Kim on the proper spelling was the second. Changing it myself was the third … since it ran in the paper as Elfish and Kim’s shriek as she read it in the paper was enough to convince me I blew it. So my rule of thumb now is to double and triple check everything, especially if it is a personal column by one of my reporters or just a phrase or word I am uncertain of.

Of course, each of the reporters also has their own idiosyncrasies that I still have to be on the lookout for on a regular basis.

Craig Macho fell into the habit of writing ‘Bridal Ridge’ for a development in Oakdale that is actually Bridle Ridge, but it was around the time his daughter was busy with wedding plans, so that was understandable. He also still sometimes automatically types ‘arraignment’ when he means ‘arrangement’ – which basically stems from his past life as a police officer.

Sports guy Ike Dodson is very fond of using the word ‘reigns’ when he really means ‘reins’ — as in ‘take the reins’ of a team. We do not have kings and queens reigning over our sports teams, at least not the last time I checked.

Just a few of those every day habits all writers seem to fall into. Jagada Chambers, who was our Oakdale-Riverbank sports guy before Ike, loved the word ‘flourish.’ No matter what the sport, he would somehow try to work ‘flourish’ into the story. One week, I took it out of about six stories and told him to find a new favorite word.

As we were all taking a breath after the most recent issue was completed, we were discussing the next day’s staff meeting and giving John Branch some suggestions as to what type of donuts he should bring for us. Since he had been off on vacation, we figured we’d make him pay up for us doing his work, in the form of a dozen donuts. Craig Macho went even further, suggesting that whoever made the most mistakes that I had to correct in any given week should bring the donuts. Teresa Hammond piped up that catching such mistakes was what they pay me for, so why should she bring donuts because I did my job? That’s job security for me, she said, people making mistakes.

Good point.

I’ll take that job security thing over a jelly donut any day.

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