There is very little I don’t love about this job.
More specifically, the people which comprise the staff of the Oakdale Leader, Escalon Times and Riverbank News publications. Yes, we all share one large office space. In total, we are a staff of 15 people.
In February, I celebrated 12 years of (much interrupted) service in this old brick building. During the course of those 12 years I have been fortunate enough to sit at many desks. A professional journey which began at the ‘Society’ desk of our Newsroom, grew to a full time staff reporter position and a number of years sharing human interest stories I will not soon forget. I also spent a few years at the Front Desk as receptionist (after having my daughter). As a small office we learn to do many things, so during this period I maintained my position as a ‘Feature’ writer/Columnist.
Answering the phones, greeting customers, taking payments, all coupled with editorial duties. I was not the only one … manning the desk. It was, however, my first true introduction to what it means to be on the ‘front line’ of a small town newspaper.
My current position as Circulation Manager, allows me the time to still share my thoughts and views in this forum. It also keeps me actively involved with much of our staff. Yes, all 15 of us are able to cross paths on a pretty regular basis.
Working for a community newspaper is a pretty special job. We know our communities in a very intimate and personal way. Majority of us live in the towns we cover. Our children attend the schools, we volunteer and participate in the sports programs and know many of our readers ‘personally.’
In summary, we don’t take what we do lightly. We recognize we are (somewhat) in the business of optimum customer service.
Readers rely on us to share photos, facts from local youth sports, report accurate information on City happenings and upcoming events. Does this mean we make everyone happy all the time? Absolutely not. Do we expect to? Another no.
Truthfully, it’s a hard lesson to learn when ‘new’ to the job. Each of us is passionate about what we do at varying degrees. Be it an Advertisement worked on, Birth Announcement written, even a recount of an OID meeting. Time, effort and pride is placed into each aspect of what we strive to do in this office.
It is, however, a fine line when you are a ‘small’ town weekly paper. I have caught myself a number of times reminding friends that we are not a town newsletter, but actually a ‘real’ paper. Again, another blurred line which may be hard to see at times but truthful all the same.
Calls and walk-in business which come through our office can span from an extra large pumpkin with an owner desiring a photo in the paper, to a person looking for a loan or someone calling to inquire when Mother’s Day is. Yes, each of these have and do happen. It’s a normal occurrence in all honesty and a true piece of what makes this job so fun. If laughter were not allowed in the work place, well… let’s just say this building would sit empty. We laugh… a lot.
That being said we are also human, hence the laughter. Like any business which serves customers (in our case reader/subscribers) people are free to share how they ‘feel.’ This in and of itself can be its own column topic. For this piece however I’d like to turn the attention to how others ‘feel’. Most specifically the feelings of our front office crew.
Their job is to direct our customers and callers to the right desk to help them with their problem, story idea, etc. They are not punching bags, yet are often placed in that position. Your skin gets a little thicker when you man that desk. Talking to a husband four days after suddenly losing his spouse takes a special set of ears. Calming (or attempting to) a mother who insists her son was ONLY in the cop log because the girl hit him first and what was he to do? ... yes, this also takes a special skill. Handling the name dropper who belittles you because you are ‘just answering phones’ … now that takes true finesse.
This was perhaps my favorite when I sat in that place. Listening to the condescending voice dismissing me on the other end as I would try and help ‘connect’ them to the right person. Hearing … ‘Just give me Teresa Hammond, she’ll take care of me.’ Yeah, that was fun. True colors show when the world isn’t watching.
What’s the point of all this really?
It’s really quite simple and maybe a simple challenge/call to action that I’d like to put out there (myself included). Two favorite quotes sum it up simply.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Gandhi
“Live in such a way that if anyone should speak badly of you, no one would believe it.” – Unknown
None of us are perfect. We can’t always get it ‘right.’ The notion here is simple … kindness matters. A smile speaks volumes, as does a patient ear and a demeanor of understanding versus reaction.
My bird’s eye view is indeed both fortunate and entertaining, mostly it’s educational. Treat others as you’d like to be treated. Think on it, then … do it. Can’t hurt, right?
Teresa Hammond is a former reporter and current circulation manager 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.