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First Night on the Desk

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

  1. rascalface

    rascalface Member

    My first night I was given non-deadline stuff to work on, pretty much to learn the POS pagination system we (still) have. Then it was a week as a "third wheel," basically doing early stuff and asking tons of questions. I was brought on during the early part of the football season (our busiest time of the year with two special sections a week) so I had to learn everything in a hurry.

    The first night I had to do any demanding late pages (slapping what seemed like a million baseball boxes/recaps on a page) I just barely squeaked in under the wire. I was pretty rattled and was standing outside talking to another desk monkey. "Is it like this every night?" "Pretty much." "Huh."

    Get a couple nights under your belt where the wheels come completely off, yet you manage to get done on time and put out a solid product. Everything else will seem like a piece of cake.
     
  2. Hank_Scorpio

    Hank_Scorpio Active Member

    That's where it helps to get up off your chair sometimes. Go to the AP photo terminal and check the photos. Go to the breakroom. Step outside for a breath of fresh air.

    Take quick glances away from the screen. That helps your eyes refocus, then focus again on the terminal.

    Just remember it almost always gets better after the first day.
     
  3. joe_schmoe

    joe_schmoe Active Member

    I remember my first day at this paper I am at now. Was hired because I knew the system they were upgrading to...which has since also been phased out...but my first day was a weekend day where I was going to come in and train (learn the paper, style, etc...) and start full time the next week. Before I leave the SE calls, says the new software isn't in yet, and asks if I can go cover a baseball game. So it's odd enough to be driving to a town I don't know well and have directions just to get back to the paper's office, which I was only in once, but now I have to find a random school in another town which I've never been to, and work my way back to the office from there.
    It was fun.

    First night on the desk was a breeze once the new software was here, as indeed I was training some of the older sports guys.
     
  4. JBHawkEye

    JBHawkEye Active Member

    First time I ever laid out pages, I was a summer intern at my hometown paper (5,000-circ at the time). I had never laid out pages by myself before.

    We had three pages on a Monday, but everything local from the weekend was rained out. So I was filling it all with wire copy, and we didn't have AP photos. Fortunately, the SE left me a story with a couple of photos.

    We were an hour late, because my headlines weren't coming out right (the old cut-and-paste days). For the rest of the week, they didn't give me any room because they didn't want me to be late again.

    The best part of the story was the photog on staff says to me a couple of days later that the reason why they didn't give me more room was "because you did such a lousy job on Monday. You're lucky you still have a job," and just kept berating me. A few months later, he was fired.
     
  5. Cadet

    Cadet Guest

    My first day at my current gig was nothing extraordinary: ME points me to my desk, hands me my (blank) dummies, says I have a few emails of interest in the inbox (I'm the writer-photog-copy editor-designer here). That was it. And this was at 7 a.m. before I had any coffee.

    The funniest part was telling my parents about my first day. They were shocked that I didn't go through any kind of training session, didn't have the benefit of shadowing the ME or former SE for a few days, didn't get my hand held.
     
  6. Stupid

    Stupid Member

    My first day doing agate was fun. I came into this business with a background in graphic design but it wasn't the chop-and-slop variety found in the newspaper business. After the first hour on the agate page, no one said anything but I was bewildered how anyone could do it in less than a 6 hours. Finally by the end of the second hour and with the page only 1/3 done, it was pointed out to me that I wasn't making use of the templates. I was formatting all the standings, box scores, etc. manually! Nobody told me about the templates, just assumed I knew they were there.

    The agate page went much more smoothly after that but it still took me a couple of weeks to get it under 70 minutes. Now I can do it in less than 45 if I'm not interrupted (which is never).
     
  7. SCEditor

    SCEditor Active Member

    The only thing I can remember about my first time designing at a daily was how ugly the page was. I made deadline and everything fine, but I seem to remember a four-deck, two-column headline about a track team and the word "thinclads." Needless to say, I like to think I've improved.

    The best story I've got is a good friend who used to work for me. He's a member of the board, so hopefully this won't hurt his feelings, but I've since forgiven him for his mistake. We were working at a small daily and I was very protective over pages. Whenever somebody else would design the sports pages on my day off, I'd roll in around 10 p.m. and check them out, make sure everything is OK. The first night I let him fly solo, he did a good job laying out the pages. Except for one thing. In 70-point type in the lead headline, he misspelled a school's name (also the town's name in which the paper resides). He must have apologized 100 times. Everybody makes mistakes, but he sure entered the business with the bar set high. Of course, he's got a pretty good gig now, so I doubt he's too worried about the headline gaffe.
     
  8. Batman

    Batman Well-Known Member

    My first day, I think I showed up about 2 hours earlier than usual just to make sure I had time to do everything. It went pretty smoothly, even though I was scared to death. The first football Friday night by myself was a different story.
    We have a 3-person staff and the sports editor and other writer were both out of town covering games. Fortunately, we have a production department, but we still have to piece together the roundups and sketch out the page designs. Our deadline is 12:30, I get back from my game at about 10:15 and try to start writing. 10 minutes later the call-ins start and don't stop for about 30 minutes. Rattled, it took me way too long to write my story and I finished at maybe 11:30. Before I left for the game I didn't organize the pages right and had several big holes to fill -- including one from all those call-ins. At 12:20, with a million things swirling in my head, I realize I haven't even started agate yet. About 12:35 I say screw it and just take my time to get things done right. I think I sent the last page at 1:45. It was a freaking nightmare. Luckily, I wasn't fired and nothing like that has happened before or since.
    Like my old editor (and probably somebody far wiser before him) once said, "The great thing about this business is, if you screw up you can always try again tomorrow."
     
  9. NoOneLikesUs

    NoOneLikesUs Active Member

    I remember sweating a lot and the fear of fucking up. I just made it on time.
     
  10. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    I was a PM paper, and the boss was there, so I was just learning on the job and it wasn't too bad.

    We had a really grumpy compositer, but boy, were he and the other people in production helpful at bailing you out.

    I think my first situation, I was pretty lucky.
     
  11. RossLT

    RossLT Guest

    10:50 (deadline is 11) Night editor "RossLT, did you know you have no pages back yet"
    Me-unintelligible grunt
    It was hard the first time but now I have the hang of the whole desk thing and can finish all my designing by 9 or so
     
  12. SCEditor

    SCEditor Active Member

    It wasn't you, but a first night can be hard. I was fortunate to be working at a paper that printed at 10 a.m., but sports did their stuff the night before. On the fly on a real deadline would have been a different situation for me.

    The guy who made the mistake did an outstanding job other than the one miscue, and I ended up helping him move on to his next paper after I went there.
     
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