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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Unlike the ever-present daily deadline, a weekly newspaper deadline can sneak up on you

Having worked for daily newspapers my entire career, it was actually difficult getting used to a weekly deadline in a surprising way. With a daily deadline, you’re just constantly under deadline pressure; you just have to get done whatever you’re doing right now. With a weekly deadline, it almost sneaks up on you, catches you off guard, as if you weren’t expecting it.
Nicola and I were working diligently along on our first issue solo as owners of the Kuna Melba News, when there came a point when we realized, “We have to get this done.” It was 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2006, and it dawned on us that we needed to go pick up the boys at day care but we still weren’t done with the newspaper, we hadn’t made dinner and there was a City Council meeting that night.
To top it off, I had the whole 20-page paper laid out, every square inch, except for an entire page, Page 6, that had only one little ad on it. I had a story mostly written about a new Boys & Girls Club coming to Kuna, but I was planning on having that be my lede story in the following week’s issue. At this point, though, there was little choice. So I polished off that story while Nicola went to get the boys and grab some dinner at Arctic Circle. As if by providence, the Boys & Girls Club story fit nearly perfectly. (Looking back, I am glad I ran that story in that first issue, “Boys & Girls Club in Kuna closer to reality.” As of this writing, nearly six years later, there is still no Boys & Girls Club in Kuna, perhaps the biggest, drawn-out story of our time in Kuna.)
By the time Nicola and the boys had gotten back to the office with dinner, I had printed out all of the pages and had them laying out on the floor in order, ready to proof. “New owners start new era at newspaper,” was the lede headline, “Dream comes true for Reeds,” for the centerpiece.
For the next three hours, with the labels noisily printing for much of that time, Nicola and I alternately proofed pages, fed ourselves, helped the boys eat their dinners and made corrections on the pages. I decided to skip the City Council meeting, which started at 7 p.m., and check in later if we got the paper done in time.
We finally got the paper done and started uploading the pages to the printer’s by 8:30 p.m., at which time Nicola took the boys home for bed (their usual bedtime was 7 p.m.). I sped over to the City Council meeting, but it was already over, an unusually fast meeting. I saw City Council members Scott Dowdy and Jeff Lang talking outside, and when I jovially asked them what I missed, they gave me a bit of the cold shoulder, saying I hadn’t missed anything.
It was a memorable evening for sure. As I drove home in the waning daylight, I vowed that we wouldn’t repeat a night like that again as owners. We would not run a loose ship with scrambling and fast food and late bedtimes. The paper would get done by Monday, and the proofing would be done during the day Tuesday, so that Nicola and I would clock out at 5 p.m., and have a nice sit-down dinner together as a family. If there was a meeting that night, we would leave a hole for it and I would go back and fill it later.
I’m proud to say that for the next five-and-a-half years, that schedule stuck, for the most part. Of course, there were times the ritual was broken and the paper imposed on our family, but most of the time, we treated the business like a business and called quitting time when it was quitting time.

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