Friday, October 12, 2012

No. 601 – Waitress

Performer: Live
Songwriters: Ed Kowalczyk, Chad Taylor, Patrick Dahlheimer, Chad Gracey
Original Release: Throwing Copper
Year: 1994
Definitive Version: None

When I started at The Dispatch in June 1994, Business had a three-and-a-half person copy desk, and everyone on the business copy desk had a specific task in addition to getting the daily section out on time.

Paul, whom I met during my interview, was the de facto copy desk chief. He worked Monday-Friday and was in charge of, well, everything but most specifically the Sunday section. Tom was in charge of Wheels, the auto section, for which Business was responsible. As such, he worked a Sunday-Thursday schedule. Hildegard was the half part. She was a part-timer who worked a half-shift Thursday and full shifts Friday and Saturday. As near as I can tell, her primary responsibility was to break everyone’s balls. (More on that later.)

I was put in charge of Business Today, or BT, which was the Monday business tablet. That meant I worked Tuesday-Saturday, which wasn’t as bad as it could have been. The Saturday shift was a daytime shift, 10-6, which gave me the whole evening off. Actually, the 6 part was loose. I was done as soon as I sent all Sunday pages and confirmed their arrival. Sometimes, if I were on the ball, I could catch the printers before they took their dinner break at 5. So, from Saturday evening to Tuesday afternoon—the weekday shift started at 3—I had almost three full days off in a row.

As a result of that task, I had different duties every day at work. On Thursday, as I noted, I laid out BT, which usually meant I was there till after midnight and sometimes till 2. Tuesday, I was in charge of the daily, so I laid out the front page and assigned stories, much like I had in Sports in Flint. On Wednesdays and Fridays, I was a grunt reading from the rim and/or doing the stock tables, back when the paper still published those things.

The day’s shift more or less followed the same routine: The first few hours were for figuring out the news and doing advance work. After dinner and moving my car around 6, it was time to plow through the daily copy and/or do stocks.

The pace was definitely a change from the Flint Journal, and, perhaps inevitably, it didn’t take long for professional boredom to set in. Business news in Columbus was sedate—there was no competition, like in Flint where we competed to some degree with the Detroit papers. And, worse, the publisher’s family was so well-connected that a few times stories that would prove embarrassing to certain “interests” got squashed.

In other words, the bloom was quickly off The Dispatch rose. Fortunately, I had something else that started to bloom soon after I started there that drew all of my attention.

Four hundred down, six hundred to go.

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