Friday, February 17, 2012

Days like these

More often than not, each day at work is a reminder of why I need to get out of newspapers. We're chronically short of help, experienced staff members are being let go because they're "too expensive" or have crossed the wrong Indonesian and, as has been detailed here, this place is run at times like a clown college. Each day is a race to overcome the hurdles put in our path, make the paper look as good as possible and beat deadline -- usually achieving the latter by a hair's breadth.

Even so, there are occasions that remind me why I stick around and offer me the kind of creative challenge I think would be hard to duplicate in another profession. Yesterday was just such a day.

Initially I was scheduled to cover for the sports editor, who had his day off, and move over to check editing once the section was clear. At about 2:30 p.m., though, I get a text message from the Head Geordie, saying our international news guy has "food poisoning" and asking if I can cover for him, too. Such occasions are why they keep me around, of course, so I brave Big Durian traffic with an even more persistent gnawing feeling in my stomach (and not just because I'm out of PopTarts). Making matters worse, one of our two sports reporters is also off and the other is indisposed because God's Own College Basketball Team is playing that night, meaning it's a political necessity for us to cover it.

In addition to the oh-so-pressing matter of Indonesian college basketball, there's also Persipura Jayapura's Asian Champions League playoff at Adelaide United and the Indonesian men's and women's badminton teams trying to qualify for their world team championships. With no other hands to go around, the task of writing those stories falls in my lap. Persipura's 4 p.m. Jakarta time kickoff and straightforward loss was helpful, as was the Indonesian women doing as expected and getting swept by China. What was supremely unhelpful was South Korea taking the Indonesian men to the limit, with four of the five matches going to three sets before Indonesia pulled out a 3-2 win. With Macau only an hour ahead of our time, B book didn't get put to bed until 10:45 p.m. or so.

One thing I try to do when slotting a section, regardless of how many I'm juggling, is to lean more toward analysis pieces and features. The print product can't really keep up with radio, TV or the Internet in terms of immediacy, so it only makes sense to think more like a magazine and keep the spot news to just the biggest events of the day (Syria, Iran, etc.). Fortunately I had Jason Reid's column on Jeremy Lin, Taiwan's embrace of Linsanity and Human Rights Watch calling out Saudi Arabia to demand that it allow women to compete in the Olympics. In international, spot news like Ban Ki-moon raising the specter of crimes against humanity in Syria and Iranian would-be bombers getting arrested in Thailand and Malaysia were surrounded by less timely looks at Xi Jinping's return to Muscatine, Iowa, the upcoming Communist Party succession in Beijing, Burmese exiles returning home, a horrific prison fire in Honduras and Italian women pushing for better workplace equality in the post-Berlusconi era.

Agate formatted, two stories written and five pages worth of sports and news slotted, edited and proofed -- all by 11:45 p.m. I even had time to check edit a few local news stories and help proof A1. I'm not posting this to big myself up or claim that I'm indispensable to the newsroom; rather, it's mostly to help me decompress and avoid having to bore my parents with my office escapades when I call. A new senior copy editor is supposed to arrive next week, so hopefully there won't be any days like these in the future.

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