Monday, May 28, 2012

No. 738 – Hang On to This

Performer: Days of the News
Songwriter: Travis Meeks
Original Release: Days of the New (III)
Year: 2001
Definitive Version: None

Like a lot of people who were affected by 9/11 only through what they had read or seen on TV, I went through a depressive period. But mine had less to do with seeing the buildings coming down—bad enough as that was, of course—than it did ancillary reasons that stemmed from that fateful day.

The first one was work. As you can imagine, working on Sept. 11, 2001, at a daily newspaper was a bit hectic. The Business section was asked to be off the floor by 7, so we could help out the overwhelmed news desk. Because it was a Tuesday, that was Wheels day. After BBT went away, I was put in charge of the Wheels (cars) section, which typically meant going through the wires and finding the right stories, then designing the page, editing the stories and sending it out on time Thursday.

But on 9/11, we were asked to get that section done that day, so Barb, who was the business copy desk chief, picked the stories to expedite the process. And as soon as I got in, I worked on them without haste. It was, as you can imagine a pretty mindless process.

The problem with that was there was a problem with one of the stories. I can’t remember what it was now, but I seem to recall that it had something to do  with repeating a story that had been published earlier in another section. That seems likely, because inter-department communication at the Dispatch was atrocious, so this sort of thing happened all the time, unfortunately.

However, there was a big difference when news or features used a business story that we had already run and when we did the reverse. If news or features pimped off us, well, that was no big deal, but if business did the same thing, it was an unconscionable act. When the section came out, and the problem was discovered, the nighttime managing editor, who was an old-school newspaper hardass (and for whom I respected that), lowered the boom. And Barb, in the time-honored tradition of managers at that newspaper when faced with wrath from above, threw an underling under the bus—in this case, me.

Yes, it was my section. Normally I’d be happy to take the fall for my mistakes. Well, not happy, being a perfectionist and all, but you know what I mean. It’s my section, my responsibility, but this was a special circumstance, and I was a victim of the circumstance.

Not good enough. This incident was brought up as a major black mark on my record when I had my usual six-month’s late annual review, even though technically it shouldn’t be included in my work for the latest year in question, which ended in April 2001. The chronology was beside the point. Really?! This happens once, ONCE, under trying conditions when I had nothing to do with it save not catching the mistake, and it ends up as paper-trail fodder for potentially firing me later?

Is it any wonder that I was willing to leave that newspaper for a “job” that paid me nothing? No, the wonder is why I stayed as along as I did. The Wheels fiasco was the final push I needed to get out of there as soon as I could.

The second thing I alluded to at the outset was that soon after 9/11 was a time when I could have gotten back together with Debbie if I had so chosen, but I’ll save that story for another time.

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