Friday, January 30, 2009

Chiropractic: How I became an instant expert

After I posted my item on editor Larry Laurain another humorous assignment came to mind.

During my first week at The Oakland Press in January 1984 I pretty much was sitting around twiddling my thumbs waiting to be turned loose on the police beat and feeling nervously unproductive.

In a newsroom there is nothing worse than to be a reporter who is not working on something. Because if you are not working on something, you are a target for anything. So it was with me that first week at the Press.

The only thing worse than being a reporter working on nothing, is to be a reporter in a newsroom on a late Friday afternoon. Reporters had several mottos at the Flint Journal (and if I forget some, I know the readers of this blog with fill in the blanks):

"You never know where in the Flint Journal you'll find a Page 1 story."

"It can always get worse." and,

"Nothing good every comes from being in the newsroom on a Friday afternoon." (I'll explain this one further tomorrow)

But I digress.

On the Thursday of my first week at the Press I was met in the morning with an assignment to attend a luncheon conference speech at the Michigan Chiropractor's meeting in Southfield. In retrospect I can see this was just a way to get me out of the office and out of sight for the day.

But armed with a map and a complete lack of knowledge about anything chiropractic I headed off early to the conference.

The speech was unremarkable, but I dutifully took notes and filed a story which I'm sure ran somewhere on the airplane pages, so called because they were deep into the newspaper sections, such as: B-12, A-10 or F-16. That's back in the day when papers had thick sections.

After three days of following someone around like a puppy dog learning the ropes, it was good to finally feel like I had earned a day's pay.

Fast forward a year or more: There was a breaking story about some proposed changes in Michigan law dealing with chiropractors. One of the editors began scanning the room for me, because somehow covering that one speech had made me the newsroom expert on the subject.

And so it was for my five-year career at the Press, any time the subject of chiropractic arose, it came to me.

That's why when I put together a package of newspaper clippings for my next potential newspaper employers, I left that clipping out.


Anonymous said...

I used to freelance for a Texas daily metro newspaper and still freelance for a recreation magazine. Twice I've received assignments pertaining to the military for one reason: I was the only freelancer who was also a veteran.

Jim of L-Town said...

Actually, that's one of the areas where I think it's probably not a bad idea to have some background.

As a veteran myself (Navy - 1965-68)there have been times (not at the Journal in recent years as the woman who covers military stuff is really, really good at it) where I have seen reporters without a military background kind of mess things up.

Thanks for your service and thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

The variation I heard was "Nothing good ever comes from being in the newsroom after 2 p.m. on a Friday."

As the reporters slowly melted away, the number of editors didn't, and some fresh ones even came in.

Eventually, there would be one reporter, usually working on a highly complex Sunday story, with three, even four, editors circling.

Their jaws would click-clack open with words like "fast assignment," "quick calls," "updates," "follow ups," "fast page proofs" and "short obits."

Toss in a power-mad copy editor famous for his inane demands and bizarre questions that he insisted be answered (between his long smoke breaks and Web surfing.)

visually, think of a proud but limping zebra surrounded by wall-eyed, slavering hyenas, and you're there.

Jim of L-Town said...

I'm going to include your comments in the item that will go up on this specific matter tomorrow.

You said it better than I ever could.

Nathan said...

Had to look up the B-12; turns out it's a rather obscure glider that looks similar to the ones we fly here...

And I'm glad you chose the F-16. It's clearly a better choice than those silly Navy fighters.

Jim of L-Town said...

OK, don't make me pull out all my AF jokes. We Navy guys are a little sensitive about our fly boys (and girls).

The Air Force has good pilots, but can they land on a ping-pong table like my Navy aces?

I was going to use B-1 (But that's actually a good page to be on, just ask your Dad - who I talked to today by the way).

Anyway thanks for the response. And we're keeping you in our thoughts and prayers.