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First Night on the Desk

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Riddick, Jul 8, 2006.

  1. Riddick

    Riddick Active Member

    Obviously, this is my first night on the desk, laying out all the pages at my little paper. Well, shit was sent a half hour late for starters, and it's been a long night.
    Kinda curious what some of your first nights were like?
  2. Chi City 81

    Chi City 81 Guest

    Surprisingly easy actually. Of course, I had the SE showing me the ropes. I love my job.
  3. Riddick

    Riddick Active Member

    lucky you. i'm stuck here alone with the feeling something was majorly screwed up, other than the half hour late part.
  4. Chi City 81

    Chi City 81 Guest

    Well, if you ever have any questions, I'm happy to help. Though, there's quite a few posters here with much more design experience than me.
  5. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    It was bad. I had a half-hour or so of training and then was thrown in on a heavy high school basketball night. Wrong team winning in a headline, assorted minor pratfalls.

    What I didn't know at the time was that even after you become good at the job, you're going to have some rocky nights when everything seems to go wrong at once, kind of the way a good major league pitcher is going to have some nights when he doesn't have his good stuff and his teammates don't play well, either. You'll live. The important thing is to recognize when you're struggling and focus on the biggest stuff so that the errors that get through are minor. Be very careful with display type, force yourself to look and look again.
  6. Riddick

    Riddick Active Member

    i feel like my eyes don't even work anymore after staring at the damn screen for so long.
  7. pallister

    pallister Guest

    I wish I could remember what my first night was like.

    But things coming in late and the resulting frustration (and scrambling) is pretty common.
  8. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    I had a similar experience as Frank, although thankfully without the hed bust.

    Had a 15-minute crash course the day before from the SE, and got thrown into the fire the next night. Working essentially a slot shift, although at that paper, whoever was "on desk" was ... well, you were the man. Nobody else to help design, except the news side if you fell really far behind and they could spare a deskie.

    I think I missed deadline by 10-15 mins, but I got all the major stuff right and didn't screw anything up, so the bosses were happy because it was my wedding night. I was a full-time writer then, but I've since switched over to the desk for good (steadier hours played a huge part, and a bump in pay played no small part, either.)

    As Frank alluded to, good part about this job is that it's just like baseball: If you go 0-for-4 with 3 Ks one night, you can come right back out with a four-hit performance the next night. Just gotta shrug off the bad nights and come out fresh the next night. Easier said than done, I know.

    Oh, and try to hit a little closer to .900 in this league. .300 ain't gonna cut it, especially when it comes to making deadline. (And that's Lesson No. 1 for a young deskie: Make Deadline. Lesson No. 2: Do whatever you have to do to Make Deadline. If you can't do that consistently -- and that's what I mean by hitting .900 or better -- then you'll be out of a job soon. That's a fact.)

    And if you need help or have questions, feel free to PM.
  9. Tom Petty

    Tom Petty Guest

    grizz - maybe this will make you feel a little better:

    many years ago, after spending an entire night with the SE teaching me the ins and outs, i went lead the following night. everything fell into place. i had a freakishly small section that day, it wasn't baseball season, it was the slowest day of the week. i wrote some snappy headlines and got sports 'out the door' about 20 minutes early. pretty damn proud of myself.

    when first-runs came around, one of the copy desk editors (a former SE at the paper) kept looking at my agate page ... kept saying 'something's wrong here.' well, he couldn't put his finger on it. after about 90 percent of the run was off the press, copy desk guy says 'damn, now i know what it is.'

    seems as though nobody ever explained to me to push down the option key every damned time i changed font styles. agate page was in agate font alright, but every bit of it was in 9 point font ... which answered the question of why i wasn't able to get as much agate on the page as my SE did the night before.

    i never looked at the page again, although copy desk guy had plenty of ammo on me every time we had beers the next coupla years i spent there.

    the first night is hell grizz, that's just a given. always have an airtight plan going in, though, and you'll very rarely miss deadline.
  10. shotglass

    shotglass Guest

    grizz, rather than tell you about mine, I'll tell you about one of my cohorts, who's now a full-time writer.

    He arrived here in 1984 on a Friday in September. As he walked through the door, wondering what football game he'd be sent to that night, the sports editor (a clueless fella overall) met him and said, "You know computers?"

    Taken aback, my friend said, "Well ... yeah ..."

    At which point the SE tossed him the dummies -- all eight pages -- and said, "Good. You're doing the paper tonight."

    Why, hello there. ;D
  11. HejiraHenry

    HejiraHenry Well-Known Member

    My first desk night of the modern era was under the supervision of the ASE, who knew his stuff. As rightly said above, we all have bad nights. But we keep showing up the next day.
  12. ogre

    ogre Member

    First nights are always hectic. I remember feeling like I was the dumbest person in the world trying to figure out the DTI software, which is different than Quark in all sorts of ways that I don't remember anymore because eventually it all falls into place.

    Just be glad you didnt start on a high school football Friday when all eight of your local stories come in at 11 and you have to be off the floor at 11:30. Sitting around for hours waiting for everything, and then having 20 minutes to edit and layout is not fun.

    I have found that it is much easier to find mistakes on paper proofs than on the computer screen. Not sure why, but everything looks good on the screen. The errors pop out at you in paper. Especially when the actual edition comes off the press. Just last week I had the word "roudy" in a headline. Not sure what that word is, was supposed to be "rowdy." I missed it, and my two cohorts missed it.

    Made me feel like a big time dildo, but at least I caught it before the entire run went through.
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