Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I have the love of community journalism you’re looking for

Another in my ongoing public audition for The Onion.

Dear managing editor:

I saw your help-wanted advertisement for a night desk copy editor and page designer, and all I can say is, “Look no further, for I have the passion, nay the love, of community journalism you’re looking for!”

I’m sure you have been flooded with responses to your ad, because who among us isn’t excited about a school board debating whether to pay for an impact study to help it decide whether or not to build a new pool at the high school? And who isn’t enthralled at the possibility that township supervisors may not have a quorum on the very evening they’re scheduled to vote on installing parking meters on Main Street?

But for me, it’s more than that. Sure it’s the issues, but it’s also the lifestyle. It’s the rush of an off-year election night (and the accompanying free pizza!), frantically editing stories about voter reax to local results as the clock speeds toward deadline. Wow!

Some people call me an adrenaline junkie, but I just laugh right along with them.

Community journalism has given me so much. For instance, before I began working on copy desks, I had no idea that the word “Dumpster” is properly spelled with a capital “D.” For years I used a lowercase “d” and nobody corrected me, probably snickering behind my back at my ignorance. Well, those days are over!

Where else but in the newsroom of a community newspaper could I spend my evening debating the merits of the serial comma? (I’ll eschew it, but you’ll never convince me the AP is right on that one!) On nights when we have those spirited chats, I can’t microwave my dinner and take it back to my desk fast enough!

After all these years in community journalism, I still get a swell of pride when I walk into the all-night supermarket to fetch next week’s Lean Cuisines and am greeted by the professional-looking, error-free front page I helped produce just the evening before. Sometimes my flair for headline writing is on display right there in the store. I feel like a secret celebrity because nobody knows it was me who wrote the headline they’re enjoying, but I don’t get a swelled head. Sure it’s a glamorous job, but I’m no big shot.

And when I think of all the money I might have wasted on entertainment and who knows what else if I weren’t working on Saturday nights, I just shake my head.

Every night when my cat and I go to bed, I replay the evening’s events, stories, conversations and controversies in my head, sometimes wondering if I actually made a particular correction or meant to and forgot. Usually I did, but not knowing can be stressful, so I’ve learned not to worry about it so much. Still, sometimes you can’t help but wonder, “What if?”

Without such important issues to think about, I would probably just lie in bed and dwell on nonsense like quietly wishing a meteor the size of a Greyhound bus would crash through my roof and land right on top of me.

Wow, how much fun would it be to edit that story?

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