What I’ve learned in one year’s time
It’s been a good year, this 2005, filled with the usual degree of success and failure, trial and tribulation. It was also my first year in the editor’s seat after a career as a footloose freelancer, I’ve seen a lot of things from this desk in the last 12 months, and some of them actually stuck to this sorry mass of grey cells I call my brain.
I learned a lot this year. And I’m going to share some of this knowledge with my readers. Here’s what I’ve learned in the year 2005, more or less:
A weekly magazine is a cruel mistress. She doesn’t care that you’ve got a family. She doesn’t care if your car breaks down. She doesn’t care if you’re sick, uninspired, shorthanded, whatever. The magazine wants what she wants, which is to hit the streets on Wednesday (or even Tuesday afternoon) each and every week. And if you can’t hang with that, then she doesn’t want you.
Greensboro is an amazing place, brimming with fascinating people doing incredible things. We’ve been writing about them for a year now, and we’ve barely scratched the surface.
At least once a week there will come a phone call that you either don’t want to make or don’t want to take. The best recourse is to suck it up and pick up the phone.
Have respect for your readers. Whether you agree or disagree with them, always remember that every publication is dependent on the eyes that see them. Listen to their concerns. Run their letters ‘— all of them, especially the ones that criticize.
Get a lawyer. A team of them if possible. If you’re doing your job right, you’re going to need them.
‘“If your mama says she loves you, check it out.’” (Courtesy of John Robinson, editor of the News & Record.)
Always do the math.
It’s extremely important to have a Plan B in this business. And also Plans C, D and E through J.
It’s always good to have a plan, but it’s equally important to know when to abandon it.
No matter what the really important news of the day may be, you will always get more letters if you do a story on American Idol, particularly if it involves Ms. Barrino.
People love to be morally outraged. And for the ones who really dig it, it is a better high than anything you can smoke.
‘Good taste’ is a relative term.
One of the keys to success is to surround yourself with great people and then let them do what they love to do. People should get off on what they’re doing. And none of us can do it alone.
On that note: behind every good woman there is a good man. The reverse is also true: I would not have been able to accomplish much this year if my wife Jill wasn’t there to tend the home fires (while at the same time running a business of her own, by the way. I don’t know how she does it). We didn’t see as much of each other as we would have liked this year, but we tried to make the most of it when we were able to be near each other and awake at the same time.
Never mess with the crosswords or comics ‘— kind of a chestnut in the newspaper business, but a truism nonetheless.
Journalists have a responsibility to write news stories as objectively as possible. It is not our job, in the news pages, to mold public opinion. That’s what the op-ed section is for.
People aren’t stupid, though it is often convenient to believe it so.
Some people really are stupid, and for them there is neither help nor redemption.
Jordan Green says you should always bring a pencil in case it starts to rain. Ink smears on paper in the rain.
Never be in anybody’s pocket.
Neckties are overrated. And they chafe.
If you drink too much coffee, say more than three giant cups a day, it’s going to catch up with you.
Have no expectations. Sometimes a story doesn’t pan out the way you thought; don’t confuse what you want to happen with what actually happens. And sometimes you don’t get the story at all, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have a story.
People love pictures of dogs.
A year is a long time in the free weekly business and there is an incredible amount of work that must be done. If you think about the big picture too often you’ll find yourself a nervous wreck. Take things one week at a time, occasionally raising your head to chart your progress or look where you’re going.
Life is good when you love what you do.
I’m out. Happy 2005 everybody. See you on the flip side.
To comment on this column, e-mail Brian Clarey at firstname.lastname@example.org.