How do you explain the inner workings of a small weekly newspaper to a student who can ask Google anything and get the answer in a heartbeat? You do your best, injecting the human aspect into it.
Over the past few weeks, our group of three weekly papers, The Oakdale Leader, The Escalon Times and The Riverbank News, has played host to a couple of ‘job shadow’ students from Riverbank High School. As part of their English class Senior Project, they must do an in depth report on a career of their choice, typically one they intend to pursue in some fashion. News reporter Virginia Still had a shadow a few weeks ago and she sat in on our Wednesday morning staff meeting, did some uploading of material to our websites and Facebook and had plenty of questions regarding how we go about doing our jobs.
Shortly after that, my ‘shadow’ arrived for a day, choosing a Friday to sit in with me. Not only was it a Friday, which includes deadlines for the Perspective page and the items that we contribute to the ‘Living’ section, it was also the final day on the job for our Oakdale city reporter, Rich Paloma. So there was a potluck luncheon planned, Rich brought in his Burmese mountain dogs for a final visit with everyone, and there was lots of reminiscing mixed in amongst the work being done.
I let my shadow, Jorge Rubio, spend some time with each of the reporters in the office, so they could share with him about their specific beats and answer any questions he might have about how they approach the job. He also was interested in social media and how news is now disseminated through a variety of different avenues, with his career path possibly veering more to an online publication as opposed to in print.
To get an idea of how the weekly paper actually works, though, Jorge knew he needed to touch base with all the departments – news, advertising, front office staff, management, etc. – so he did talk with everyone in the office (all 12 of us between the three newspapers) and got a good idea of the process. It was a Friday so the newspapers also had to be ‘dummied’ – the pages laid out with the ads put on them – and that is something co-worker Michelle Kendig primarily handles, with some input from me regarding how many pages to set aside in each paper for news, sports and the like.
Even then, it wasn’t a typical Friday; the mood was lighthearted and yet somber at the same time, as we shared ‘Rich stories’ of his years here and contemplated the office without his booming ‘not inside’ voice.
We got things done but it was somewhat of an unusual atmosphere to bring someone in and show them a ‘normal’ day in the newsroom, if there even is such a thing. Jorge got to enjoy lunch and a big slice of Rich’s very chocolatey ‘going away’ party cake.
He also learned that not only do we produce three weekly newspapers out of this office, we contribute regularly to the 209 Magazine, provide material for a variety of special sections, offer stories and photos for the 209 Business Journal, update websites and do Facebook posts … basically there is very little ‘down time’ and Jorge was surprised, as many people are, that so much goes in to each issue before they hit the newsstands.
I don’t know if he will one day choose to become a newspaper reporter. I do know that he gained a greater appreciation for the work that goes on behind the scenes on a daily basis. And, not to mention, he got a good piece of cake.
Marg Jackson is editor of The Escalon Times, The Oakdale Leader and The Riverbank News. She may be reached at email@example.com or by calling 847-3021.