Thursday, June 28, 2012

Not my job

“So what is it that you do?”
It was an innocent enough question. The lady asking me that question was truly stumped as to the tasks and responsibilities of a newspaper editor. So I had to stop and think about all I actually do as part of my job. But the other side of it all was thinking about what other people think my job is. I have some people assume weird things about what my job is all about. With that in mind, let me share what my job is not.
My job is not nine to five. If you want to find me in the office, early in the morning is not the time to do it. You see, I work late hours. I am here right before the pages are sent to the printer at midnight or 1 a.m., so don’t assume I am sitting cheerily at my desk bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (whatever that means) at 8 or 9 in the a.m. If I am up at that hour, I am probably covering some sort of news event. I am not at my desk early in the morning unless insomnia sets in.
My job is not to deliver your newspaper. I am constantly amazed that people call the newsroom to report that their paper was late or in the wrong place or whatever else can go wrong with delivering an edition. That comes under circulation. I really have no idea about delivery schedules. That happens early in the morning. As I said, I am not on the morning shift at the office. But beyond that, delivery concerns fall under a different department. Not that I don’t want to help, but I just don’t have that information. I’ll send you to someone who can help.
My job is not to ruin the lives of young people who make a few mistakes and wind up on the wrong side of the law. On more than one occasion (including this past week), I have had people accuse me of ruining the lives of the people who appear in court by taking their pictures and putting the information in the newspaper. I am not making this up. This most recent time, an adult leaned over and whispered to me that I ruin the lives of these poor kids. I am not sure which of the kids was being ruined, but during that session of court there were a lot of drug cases on the docket. As I considered the accusation I thought that of all the people who are ruining the lives of these defendants, I am nowhere near the top of that list. I didn't sell little Johnny or Janie the drugs. I didn't talk them into taking drugs. I didn't raise the boy or girl or give any fatherly advice. I didn't arrest them when they bought or sold the drugs. I did not even get Johnny or Janie high. The blame on that one goes to Johnny or Janie. The fact that their names are in the newspaper is not my fault. I report what happens, I don't cause things to happen.
Personally, I wish every one of those defendants would turn their lives around and that those falsely accused would be vindicated. Perhaps what is my job in court is to tell the truth and show the consequences of what can happen if you use illegal drugs, or steal, or beat up a family member, or drive drunk, or break into houses. But, no, I don't ruin anyone's life. And most of those lives are not ruined if they can break out of the bad habits.
Finally, my job is not to print only good news or to print only bad news. You see, both can be news. I am not to hide the bad and print a propaganda sheet for the county. By the same token, I do not hide the good. But, as many people have noted throughout the years, dog bites man is not usually news, but man bites dog is news. The principle is that something that you expect is not news, but the unexpected is not news. We report accidents, but not when everyone makes it home safe at night. We report lawbreaking, not when folks obey the law. Yet we still celebrate the wonderful accomplishments of area residents. It's a balancing act. My job is to try to make it balance throughout the year. Some days the scale tips to the bad, some days to the good.
So, that's what I don't do. Oh, one more thing I don't do: Sleep eight hours a day. It's all part of the job.

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