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New job is a journalism time machine

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by allanjlewis, Mar 15, 2012.

  1. allanjlewis

    allanjlewis New Member

    Hey everyone, I'm not the most active poster here but am trying to get more involved.

    Start by saying I got my first job! (YAY!) doing news for a small weekly.

    The staff here is incredibly small. The publisher is 75 and in house most of the time. We have a few older secretaries and ad people, a career reporter in this type of setting who just moved to editor, an older sports guy who I assume has been in the business for quite some time and me, 23, fresh out of college where I learned all kinds of exciting things about the future of journalism in a digital world.

    Well, none of those things exist here.

    I don't mean to complain, heck, I'm excited to be out of the dishwashing industry. but things here are just a little weird to me.

    First off, we use Pagemaker 6.5. The same adobe software was discontinued after version 7 in 2004. After ghost-laying out the copy in page maker, it gets printed off. After printing it off, we take it up front to the secretary/proofreader, sign it in and drop it in a manilla folder. She edits it and brings it back. I make changes, bring it back to here and then it goes to the back for PASTE UP!!!!!

    Using Quark Xpress on my shiny college newsroom Mac doesn't seem so bad now, not like it ever did.

    The paper doesn't even have a website. No Facebook or Twitter either, but that makes more sense to me. As we know, the internet is killing newspapers and a simple website would cost the majority of the 4,000 subscribers who pay $16 a year for it.

    It irks me a bit to think people are unable to adapt. Is it crazy to think a website may actually produce more money for the paper through advertising or that a nicer, more streamlined layout may draw more people towards picking up the paper at say, a gas station or something?

    The 80s are rad, but I'm left shaking my head. Anyone else have similar experiences?
  2. txsportsscribe

    txsportsscribe Active Member

    did you not know these things before you took the job?
  3. Rhody31

    Rhody31 Well-Known Member

    A new website isn't going to produce money for your paper. It doesn't for anyone. If anything, it would cause a drop in readership, which then would lead to job cuts.
  4. HanSenSE

    HanSenSE Well-Known Member

    Don't forget your pica pole and proportion wheel ...
  5. SFIND

    SFIND Well-Known Member

    Did somebody say... time machine?

    You could try to convince them that it would be beneficial to upgrade some software and a few things, with the age of the staff as you describe, that's probably about as far as you could convince. I think websites can be beneficial and profitable for newspapers if done right.

    At the end of the day, you're getting a paycheck. And it doesn't sound like you're doing slave labor either. That's enough to be grateful for.
  6. murphyc

    murphyc Well-Known Member

    In the summer of 1999, I was interviewing at my second shop. After some discussion, my boss offers to show me around. We get to the back and I see the boards, waxing machine, etc. I about crapped my pants. I'd seen manual cut-and-paste my first year on newspaper staff in HS, but due to budget cuts the paper was cut my senior year. I had only done pagination in college.
    Fast forward about six months. My boss gets Quark XPress, which I had a lot of experience with from college. Everyone else is freaking out because they had only done cut-and-paste. I was thrilled and relieved.
    And allan, remind me how many newspapers have been making money thanks to websites? Enjoy your new gig, learn a lot and don't look down upon your co-workers for doing (and quite possibly liking) things old school.
  7. Hoos3725

    Hoos3725 Member

    This reminds me of an article I read about a weekly in New York or Massachusetts that doesn't have a website. The paper has a readership of 10 or 15,000 and claims to be profitable. The publisher said he doesn't want a website because then no one would buy his paper.

    Novel idea.
  8. spikechiquet

    spikechiquet Well-Known Member

    I'm debating in my head on whether them having at least a page to have contact info and a way to subscribe out there....or if that would just cause trouble since then people would start bitching that they have a website....but it has no news on it.
  9. WriteThinking

    WriteThinking Well-Known Member


    It's a small weekly, and doesn't seem as if it's likely to be your long-term thing, so...

    Just take it for what it is, stay a year or so, gain some experience and get some clips, and then, leave, whenever you're ready, or as soon as you line up something else.
  10. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    That last part is key. Your coworkers have seen a lot of folks like you come and go, some that enjoyed their time and some that had one eye on the door every day and were douches. Don't be the latter. If you can embrace the product and be friendly, those people will be fabulous to you.
  11. Gomer

    Gomer Active Member

    I had a similar experience in 1999 (weird, something about that year). It was a summer internship, and I had no clue that truly small-town, newsletter-style papers even existed.

    The workflow was as Allan describes, stories individually laid out on computer, then printed, then paste-up, then the paste-up layout was replicated on computer, then PDF'd and sent to the printer. Truly bizarre. And yes, we used a shiny pica ruler.

    The worst part was there was no journalism going on, or at least not the kind of journalism that I had been taught. I spent most of my shifts typing out missives from little old ladies in farming towns - they were handwritten and mostly talked about who had visitors last week.

    I also spent a lot of time designing ads. The most in-depth reporting I did? A day in the life of a garbage truck driver. Day in the life stuff. Really hard-hitting.

    I absolutely had one eye on the door and was a douche. The only reason I didn't leave was because it was still better for my career than working at a restaurant. I learned a lot about rebuilding Mac operating systems because they had no clue and when equipment started breaking down, I was best equipped to deal with it.

    By the way, even they had a website with basic contact info. You could perhaps suggest they do that, but be prepared to design it yourself. It would be good on the resume if you did.

    At least you have some veteran reporters you can learn from. The place I worked had no such thing.
  12. PCLoadLetter

    PCLoadLetter Well-Known Member

    I would think this is a situation where Twitter and Facebook would make a lot of sense. You can use them for breaking news and promotion of the paper without cannibalizing the readership or annoying some by creating a website with no news.
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