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Life In The



Over the past few weeks I’ve enjoyed talking writing with a couple of different friends. Not at great length but in one case I did a little proofreading for a friend taking a college creative writing course and in the other, discussed the differences between the fact-based style of newswriting vs. the free flowing style of writing just for the enjoyment of it.

And then it comes to writing columns, which is a fun way we get to connect with our readers on a different level. Instead of the who what when where why and how, we can basically follow whatever formula we feel like. Just keep it clean and within a reasonable subject matter and we are usually good to go.

I thought back to my own beginnings at the keyboard – which at that time was a manual typewriter – and how dedicated I was when I wrote my first collection of short stories. I think it was about fifth grade, there were eight to 10 short stories and my brother (a much better artist than me) did the illustrations. I got up early before school every morning and wrote before breakfast; I got home from school and wrote more before doing homework or going out to play. Hmm … maybe things aren’t that much different now.

Somewhere, in a folder in a sturdy file cabinet, that collection still exists. I would love to find it and read the stories. I think.

We also had the chance at the newspaper office recently to welcome a couple of ‘job shadow’ students and it’s always exciting to share your work with someone that is interested. One student shadowed me as editor and we ended up doing a lot of the more mundane, day-to-day proofreading, scheduling of pages, checking of facts, etc., etc.

The other student shadowed reporter Virginia Still and ended up being able to go out on a couple of stories with her and be there when I called Virginia from an Escalon crime scene with a ‘live report’ that we posted to our website and Facebook as the situation unfolded. That ‘shadow’ proved to have a more exciting couple of days, but both also had the opportunity to talk to and learn about the roles of all our various reporters, sales people, managers and front office staffers. My ‘shadow’ did learn that an editor has to be able to multi-task and put out a few fires while trying to keep everything on schedule.

It’s hard to summarize all that being part of a small town newspaper staff entails and it really does take a special breed. Well, maybe ‘special’ isn’t quite the right word – but at the risk of alienating my staff I won’t use the term I was thinking of.

It also can be a unique work atmosphere, such as on Friday when there were a number of discussions going on in the newsroom. I was listening to them from my office, just a few steps away from the configuration of four desks that make up the newsroom layout. From the music that one reporter was listening to through headphones that we could all hear anyway to the discussion I joined since we had all watched the latest episode of ‘The Bachelor’ – there was a comfortable camaraderie to go along with more than a little family-style bickering. I apparently missed some reference to Robin Williams while I was out on assignment but I did get to hear the latest Oscars gossip and the lively debate regarding what musicians should be brought in to play at the Stanislaus County Fair this year.

Somewhere in all that, we were also working on today’s issue, staying on schedule. And I got to do a little creative writing.



Marg Jackson is editor of The Escalon Times, The Oakdale Leader and The Riverbank News. She may be reached at or by calling 847-3021.