Overseeing front-page duties

Well, made it through my first-ever day of completely handling front-page duties at the Gazette. It was nerve-wracking at times, but I think it all turned out well.

In the past I’ve been the finisher of front pages (in which someone during the day began working on it, taking care of most of the elements along with building the centerpiece story). And on Thursday I was the daytime 1A person, building the centerpiece and putting together the rest of the page that I could before handing it off to the nighttime person.

But that’s it. On weekends one person does it from start to finish, and today that was me. And I was nervous. I mean, the one page of the paper everyone sees in stores, on their front steps, was the one I built! (And of course these 1A duties include creating the inside pages where the 1A stories continue.)

On top of all that, it was the Sunday paper, the big one that is exposed to WAY more people. (The Sunday paper also includes two inside pages to finish, not just one!)

There were three meetings involving this day’s duties, one Thursday, one Friday and one Saturday. (The Sunday paper is built Saturday.) It seemed like each meeting added to my anxiety levels, trying to stay on top of all the stories and their different elements. (There were only three stories, but these were the paper’s big display stories!)

It turns out that all those meetings really helped. I knew exactly how important each story and each story’s elements were, and could design the pages accordingly. It did take a while to figure everything out, trying to get all the elements to fit and look good, and trying to write strong headlines. There was a good amount of trial and error involved, but eventually the pieces did come together nicely. That was reassuring. And all that practice and experience of building so many other pages in the past did come in handy.

One good thing about this work night was that no major breaking news ocurred. That would have meant changing my plans and trying to find some way to fit in that news. It would mean rearranging, shrinking or deleting some photos or other extra elements, or possibly holding a story.

But that didn’t happen.

There’s a part of me, and I think it’s a part of any journalist, that is ready to react if something did happen, God forbid. (Unless it’s really positive breaking news, like a cure for cancer!) I’m sure that day will come, both the cancer cure and a night with breaking news.

But for now, I’ll be focusing on trying to do a good job on 1A again tomorrow. And after that it’s back to my usual duties of working on all the other pages of our paper: two days of sports, then two days of being the 1A finisher. And then my eight straight days of work come to an end, and I get a three-day weekend, with an extra hour from daylight savings time to boot!

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~ by davidllee on October 26, 2008.

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