Sunday, December 9, 2012

No. 543 – Antarctica

Performer: Midnight Oil
Songwriters: Jim Moginie, Robert Hirst, Martin Rotsey, Peter Garrett
Original Release: Blue Sky Mining
Year: 1990
Definitive Version: None

By February 1990, when this album came out, I was sufficiently up to speed with the basic skills I needed to contribute at the Flint Journal. That’s when the true nature of my hire was revealed.

The Journal brass wanted to put out zoned editions of the paper’s Metro section. Because of my experience at the Daily Herald and its 18 zoned editions (at the time of my departure), I was put in charge of executing the zoned editions.

There would be two—one for the Lakes area to the south and one for Lapeer County to the east. My job was essentially to act as the go-to copy editor for all stories meant to printed exclusively in those two editions, swap out the stories in the backshop and move them through. After I finished those duties, I’d work as normal on the rim.

I don’t recall that I got a raise for this, but I did get a slight change of schedule. The first three months, I worked from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. But the brass wanted the zoned editions, or at least the stories, out of the way early, so I now was expected to come in at 5 … which meant I had to get up at 4. Gulp!

But that also meant a shift at the end of the day, too. Now my workday was over at 1. In practice, however, it became much earlier than that.

By this time, I was locked in firmly with the copyediting clique that had lunch at the Sports Coupe, around the corner from the newspaper. When the zoned editions and the one-star went to press at 11:30, that meant it was lunch time for the copy desk. One person would have to stay to cover a final edition if necessary, but the rest of us would head over to the Coupe. After lunch, we were to go back and work on advance stuff.

When I was on my original shift, I found the advance work very difficult, because my concentration level wasn’t what it should be. But then after you’ve ingested a few pitchers of beer, that’ll happen.

The Coupe crew—Randy, Sue, Dan, me and sometimes Jennifer and Jessie—used their lunch hour to smoke and drink (and occasionally eat). I don’t smoke, but I always ate, and this is where I really learned how to drink—a practice I perfected after moving to Sports. Then we’d all stagger back to work.

When I moved to the early shift, I stopped going back. Going back to work for a half-hour to 45 minutes made no sense, even though I owed the newspaper that time. I just headed to my car and either went home or shopping or to the gym.

I felt a guilty about doing it but not enough to change my behavior. I was at the paper before almost before anyone else; the early departure was a benefit I earned in exchange for having to get up so early.

Of course, others had to get up much earlier than I did, because they had massive commutes, but when you’re 25 and immature, you feel more entitlement than you obviously deserve. None of my bosses ever said anything about it, so ultimately, it couldn’t have been that big of a deal.

Going to the Coupe essentially was the extent of my social life those first seven months in Flint, so I wasn’t going to miss it. And the crew was great, all smart and funny people, who had been through the newspaper wars and told endless survivor’s tales about this editor and that. Randy became my mentor, not so much in the work aspect, but the politics of it all and in life.

But … everyone in that crew was much older than I was, with families and kids. In other words, apart from work and the Coupe, I never saw any of them. Consequently, it was a lonely time for me. I needed to meet more people, preferably closer to my age.

Then one day, the Metro Editor. after seeing evidence at my desk of me being a baseball fan, asked whether I would be interested in joining the newspaper’s Rotisserie Baseball league. Sure. Why not?

As I mentioned, at the league organizational meeting, I met Dave, the new reporter covering Fenton for the Lakes zoned edition. The rest is history.

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