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Dawn’s Column - The Newsroom

POSTED September 8, 2010 11:42 a.m.

The newsroom at our office is what my colleagues and I call our “classroom.” We sit with our desks lined up facing the “teacher” – our editor, Marg, who is in an office – and we do our “homework,” a.k.a. producing material for the newspaper.

Well, most of the time we produce material.

On Wednesdays after the papers are out, we come down off the stress of deadline and we have what we call episodes of “The Newsroom.” It’s basically our own make-believe version of “The Office,” that television reality show that really isn’t a reality show.

You see, we think we’re so amusing and interesting that we should have our own reality show and people would actually tune in to watch the inner workings of a newspaper office. There is drama and comedy, conflict and resolution. It’s a perfect recipe for entertaining TV — and probably lawsuits.

I should explain, we have a tendency to get a little jaded in this line of work and we sometimes make jokes about serious topics because it’s a release. But we think we’re hilarious.

Wednesdays start off with our morning staff meeting, where we straggle in and take our “reserved” seats around a large table. Whenever someone, usually a new person, sits in one of our seats, it throws off the entire balance of the meeting. So, sometimes we tell them to move. They’re also hazed into bringing donuts for the group to their first meeting. In these meetings, each of us tells the editor the articles we have planned for the week. This method frequently evokes commentary and discussion from the peanut gallery. And this is when things really start to get interesting.

Some of our unorthodox, and some would probably say undisciplined, behaviors include interrupting the person who’s talking to pepper them with questions about what they’re working on — because it’s news to us, chiming in with our own two-cents about their topic, veering off on tangents, and, believe it or not, we’re even helpful to each other when one of us provides back-story or relays the latest scuttlebutt. We occasionally have side conversations, sometimes related to the topic. In the group, we have a doodler, a spot-on and hilarious impersonator of cricket sounds when the group falls strangely silent, and a Brit — there’s one of those in every good sitcom or spy drama — we especially like the accent and foreign expressions. Amazingly, these meetings are typically quite productive.

Once we return to our desks, we continue with provocative, lively, and often loud discussions about current local and world events. For certain offices, some of these topics would be off limits. But we’re in the news business, so we consider it all our business. We can’t help it, we all have inquiring minds.

We also tell each other what to do when it comes to dealing with people, whether they’re interview subjects, sources, or family members. No one is off limits. The reporters come to a consensus, sometimes with input from the production folks, and problem solved. Although, much of this advice is strictly for the purpose of operating in a fantasy world and doesn’t really work in the real world.

Sometimes the teacher, I mean the editor, walks by and catches some of our banter out of context and wonders aloud “what the heck” we’re talking about. A lot of the time she follows that with, “on second thought, I don’t want to know” and we erupt with sinister laughter. Sometimes she comes out of her office like Lou Grant and tells us to be quiet and get to work. It’s true.

In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re a rather motley crew. Our personalities and backgrounds are very diverse and these traits come to light and co-mingle in the staff meetings and ultimately, the inner sanctum of the newsroom.

We have a romance author who challenges our editor to print her colorful reports of certain news because “it makes it more interesting” — even though it may be totally inappropriate for print. Sometimes she inserts such color in an effort to see if our editor will catch it — and gets thwarted. We have a former cop on staff, too, but we all know that cops hate reporters. He tells us regularly. We have one staffer who’s resigned and returned to this place, in different incarnations, multiple times. Another is a secretive type who guards privacy like a national secret.

We all have our own quirks and ticks — I don’t have enough room here to talk about the production staff or the folks in advertising — and political views with varying degrees and branches of conservatism to liberalism. We strongly disagree on a number of issues but somehow we’ve managed to come up with the cures to all society’s ills — we just can’t put it in print.

And that concludes this episode of The Newsroom.

 

Dawn M. Henley is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News, and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at dhenley@oakdaleleader.com or by calling 847-3021.

 

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