Monday, April 25, 2011

When Something Happens Everyday

I used to work the night shift as an assistant to the city desk for the daily newspaper in my home city. It was my first job out of college and I filled a role that was called an editorial assistant. We were a kind of errand runner slash note taker slash copy writer slash general hand around the room. We did the little jobs while we learned about the news.

When it was quiet, I'd watch the events of the world come in across an early version of the internet. In those days, the news came through services provided by AP and Reuters on green screens with yellow type. There was no indexing or hyperlinks; you just scrolled through a long unsorted list of stories like goods in a general store - it was assumed that because you only had one place to go, everything you saw was important.

I was excited by the pace of that city desk; the news coming in by phone or from a reporter off a beat or off the AP or Reuters services - news of the world, of the nation of the city. I'd get off the job at 1 a.m. and walk past the roaring presses on the first floor and wonder what the next day would bring. I worked through elections, and local crime and natural disasters and even a war in that job. But when I went home, it was quiet. There wasn't a lot going on in my life. I had to work at it to make things interesting.

I don't know if it was the process of getting older, or graduating to a more responsible job, or being married or having children, but my home life feels busier than that city desk ever felt. And as it's my house that the news is coming in to, it's a whole lot more personal - work news, kid news, family news, news of local politics and even beyond. We're a smaller world than I saw at the newspaper, but we're a planet that packs a punch.

I don't know when it will stop (if it ever will), but it feels like something significant happens every day now; like there's an event that comes through our door that could be put up in big Daily Planet block letters with a splashy photo underneath; something that will make all the tongues wag and eyes pop when people read it.

"Where's that copy Sexton?" my old editor (wonder what's become of him) said once upon a time, "Post it already will ya."

I was only working on the little local stories, News in Briefs or NIBs, we used to call them, but the night editor treated them as if they were front page.

"We don't have a paying ad for those two inches Sexton," he'd laugh, "Get that piece over here - whatever it looks like."

Sometimes, when I'm writing up the family events now, I can still here his voice and see his (seemingly) immobile shape and his big thermos of coffee and the mound of cigarette ash and the pile of discarded newsprint. I think of him and wonder what our headline will be tomorrow.

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