Assistants' efforts are appreciated

May 21, 2001

Assistants' efforts are appreciated


There are five unsung heroes in the newsroom, and I'd like to use this space to give them a pat on the back.

The Herald-Mail has five editorial assistants, three full-time staffers and two part-timers.

These women perform a variety of tasks, from typing news releases and letters to the editor to gathering and typing the lottery numbers for four states and Washington, D.C., and preparing the weather.

They also type obituaries, sometimes more than 20 (I think the record is 38) in a night, in time for deadline.

They answer the telephones, not an insignificant task considering the number of times the phones can ring on a busy day or night in a newsroom. They field the calls and handle them in an appropriate manner: Answering questions, transferring callers to reporters or editors, taking messages and, more often than they probably like, listening to someone vent at the newspaper for something they themselves had no hand in.


Just in case they're not busy enough, the assistants have taken on extra tasks.

Mia Hoover, for instance, each week lays out one of the wedding pages that runs in The Herald-Mail on Saturdays. She also compiles information for the Community page that runs on Tuesdays, arranges for a photograph, and then lays out that page on the computer.

Janis Reeser, a regular on the night shift, has taken responsibility for making sure the transition from cut-and-paste to electronic comics goes smoothly.

She also has compiled information for a summer activities tabloid section for the Lifestyle staff, prepared the livestock charts for the Business page, and has helped train people to prepare the daily stocks for publication.

And Janis never returns from a trip to the beach without a tub of caramel corn for the newsroom staff.

In addition to her regular duties, Sharon Slick compiles information about activities and prepares the movie listings for the Out and About section that runs every Thursday, and prepares the Out and About columns that run on Fridays and Saturdays.

She also recently compiled summer camp information for the Lifestyle staff.

Jean Baraclough, who works part time, does most of the same jobs performed by the full-time assistants and fills in for them when they're off. She also has undertaken the task of going through back papers to find items for the Blast from the Past column that runs each Wednesday on A3. And it is Jean who prepares the After Hours listing of nightclub entertainment that runs on Fridays.

Jean also compiles a youth calendar for Lifestyle and types that section's engagement, wedding, anniversary and birth notices.

Tanya Rinehart works part time for the Daily Mail. One of her duties is to listen to the Mail Call tape and type in callers' comments for the Daily Mail. She also types all information submitted by readers for the Mail, including items for the Sunday Neighbors pages and school information.

Every task performed by an editorial assistant is one less job that must be done by a reporter or an editor.

You'd think we'd remember to express our gratitude from time to time, but mostly we don't. To them, it sometimes must seem like we take for granted that these staffers will manage to get anything done that needs doing, and have it ready yesterday.

We're not good at showing our appreciation, and often we don't even know how many tasks an assistant is already juggling when we ask her to just type up a little release or make a quick phone call for us.

So Mia, Janis, Sharon, Jean and Tanya, this is for all those times you've pitched in without complaint and gotten the job done: Thank you.

Linda Duffield is managing editor of The Morning Herald. Her e-mail address is

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