I’m still at the front desk.
For those of you that missed my prior column, for the past year I have been splitting my time between the front desk and continuing my writing for the ‘Living’ section.
While I must admit it still presents a good set of challenges, I am staying afloat and am grateful each day that my key still unlocks the front door. These are troubled times. That is no secret. Newspapers, among other industries have not been spared by this recession. Bad news, often times, travels faster than good news and while we may be a small-town weekly paper, the grapevine of gossip does not skip past our paper.
On a bright note, we are still going. The presses are still rolling and our website has even been redesigned. We are cautiously optimistic that things will improve and grateful that so many continue to read our pages.
Now, if I said I floated through the office constantly smiling and sprinkling pixie dust on everyone to cross my path I would not only be a hypocrite — but a liar. Don’t get me wrong, I try to stay positive — but there are times it’s just plain hard.
As stated in my past column, I am an about business type of person. I am definitely lacking in the warm, fuzzy, hold your hand department. Sure, I do my fair share of socializing while performing my daily tasks, but I still face challenges in the ‘customer service’ department, while sitting at the front desk.
I recently decided I should start journaling many of the things thrown my way at the front desk and just list them all in an upcoming column. As I continue to give this idea some thought, I’ll share just a few things that happened on a typical day at the front desk.
First there was a gentleman and his wife who entered the office and proudly shared someone had told him he was ‘in the paper.’ He did not know what paper, when it might have run or what it might have said (since he had not spoken to anyone from the paper). He just knew he was in the paper. And he of course expected us to know when that was and perhaps produce a copy of the issue.
Then there was the man who shared with me the importance of his story and how he was having a hard time connecting with a member of our editorial staff. He had left the person a message the day before and now 24 hours later was concerned this staff member would not get the story in time.
He quickly became dissatisfied with my answers to each of his questions, as I would not give him the individual’s personal cell number, but offered to relay his concern to the editor — who was out of the office at the time. He then shared that if this person had no time for him, then perhaps it would be a great human interest story. This is where I must point out that through this conversation little to no eye contact was made toward me, the person answering his questions. His body language and gestures were directed toward a colleague, whom I am sure he deemed as more important than ‘the girl at the phone.’ Importance aside … this is just plain rude.
Lastly, there was the customer who called to share she had something great for a writer and needed to talk to someone. I directed her call to the editor, who would then assign it to the appropriate staff member. When the customer received the editor’s voicemail, she quickly called me back explaining the problem this created for her. Evidently she had already made the arrangements for her group to have a photo op with the paper that day — unbeknownst to the editorial staff or the editor.
Think about this for a moment. Would you call your dentist and say ‘I’ve rearranged my personal and work schedule and I will be in today at three to have my teeth cleaned.’
As a small town, weekly community paper we are truly grateful to the community and the initiative they take to contact us about varying topics. As a feature writer I am always grateful when someone contacts us with a ‘potential human interest story.’
But I cannot help but wonder what people think we do all day. If we spent the course of an eight-to-five day occupying our desks, we would not be doing our job. We each come and go on a sporadic inconsistent schedule, hoping to catch as much as we can. And yes, at times things overlap and regrettably we cannot be all things to all people.
In the meantime, I will continue splitting my time between answering calls, greeting you as you come through the door and pray to God you still read my words at the end of the week. Even if I did call you out in the paper for less than desirable behavior.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.