“˜I miss it”™: Reporter, copy editor reflects on nearly two decades with the Wellington Advertiser

Every Tuesday at about 11am, I get an itch. It’s been happening nearly six years.

That was the Wellington Advertiser’s copy deadline (it mostly worked out). Then we would choose which articles and photos would go onto which pages.

Deadline is a powerful call. Some of our best (and worst) writing comes with pressure to get it done NOW.

It doesn’t seem so long ago a professor in journalism school warned a time would come when some editor would tell us to finish a sentence. He would then yank the page from the typewriter, start editing it, and send it to a typesetter, who would type galleys to be fitted onto page blanks. Then, he would grab the next written page and continue.

It happened to me once. I was thrilled.

It could not happen today. The article is in the computer until it is done. A few times at deadline, I wrote and people watching me corrected my typos. There were several times News came at deadline – breaking News that had to be done – usually on the front page.

I’ll never forget Dave Adsett tearing down that page minutes before press deadline, while I got information about a tornado by phone from a reporter watching it. Building a page meant trimming galleys and waxing them, and cutting them onto a blank layout page by hand. It was a different era.

I’m not sure I could do the job today because it has changed.

Take Twitter. It’s not for me. Nobody to edit it; just a message to the world. We’ve all heard of troubles people get into thanks to a stupid tweet. People being informed by phone that they were dead – or something hateful or idiotic.

A real reporter would be horrified; a social media hack likely would not.

Reporter deadlines are now for every minute of the day. The old adage for reporters was three Gs: Get it fast; Get it first; and Get it right. Lately, that third one suffers.

There are other differences between then and now.

About 25 years ago, major media made the mistake of putting all their News on the internet – for free on phones – with no idea how they could recoup costs or continue their paid circulation. Today, they wonder what hit them.

My telephone is a land line with an answering machine. I don’t know how to turn on a cell phone. I carry a real camera. I shoot video only by accidentally bumping the settings. If someone invents a phone that does my household chores, I might reconsider.

Photos in the Advertiser are better than ever. I had hundreds of them published over my career – mainly by taking thousands and picking the best of a poor lot.

B.C., Before Computers, photos were developed, and run through a special machine to create individual dots (pixels) needed to print a Newspaper. I was a machine jinx. If I got within five feet, it would jam, misprint or stop. Dave Adsett started joking I should stay five feet away from it – and finally made that an order.

Keyboards made for easier typing than manual typewriters – until I spilled coffee on the right edge of the board. Imagine my dismay as typing letters gradually produced nothing – all the way over to the left Caps Lock.

Like all thinking citizens, I am dismayed at the financial state of Newspapers and journalism today. So many papers closed, so many jobs gone, so much money lost.

I’m also dismayed at the political correctness run amok. A chair is something to sit on, not a committee’s presider. We used to call a spade a spade; now it is an implement used in the construction of space in the ground.

I’m pleased the Advertiser is doing well.

I note, happily, there are female columnists – a change from old guys over 60. Adsett was responsible for that, too, wanting to better reflect readership.

A free Newspaper has no competition from its website – a courtesy to online readers. This “Newspaper” is still the main focus.

Today’s reporting job has tough requirements – but with much shorter hours – by law. I once worked a 38-hour shift and had lots more in double digits – needing pure adrenalin to get the job done as well as possible.

What a rush. I miss it.

I still get that itch.