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My job is to listen, talk, plan, package

February 25, 2002|By BILL KOHLER

My old buddy Rod called one night to talk about weekend plans.

During our conversation, he blurted out, "So, what is your job there?"

"I'm the Tri-State Editor," I said.

"No," he replied, "what is jour job there?"

Maybe we had a bad connection. Perhaps my cell phone was on the fritz. (For 50 bucks a month, the little piece of plastic should be improving my hearing and intelligence as well as never being on the fritz.)

"I'm the editor of the Tri-State section. You know, the..."

"No, dude," he interrupted. "What do you do there? What do you actually do when you go to work?"

Rod, who never has been one to beat around the bush when he has something to say, had brought his old partying buddy to a rare state - speechlessness.

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For anyone who knows newspaper people, especially gregarious editor types like me, they realize that takes some doing.

After a few moments of stammering, I gave Rod the spiel. He was not all that impressed and thoughts quickly returned to the weekend poker party.

Why the fuss?

Rod is not alone. Although newspapers are some of the most visible forms of entertainment and information in the world, most people have no idea how they come together and why we do the things we do.

Allow me to provide a brief synopsis.

My mission as Tri-State editor on The Morning Herald is to coordinate, assign and organize news stories, photos, briefs and other pertinent items from our four news bureaus and crack photo staff (they will like the plug, but others will think I'm brown-nosing) and present them in readable, clear, attractive fashion five days a week in the Tri-State section.

The reporters are stationed at four bureaus: Richard Belisle in Waynesboro, Pa., Stacey Danzuso in Chambersburg, Pa., Sarah Mullin in Martinsburg, W.Va., and Dave McMillion in Charles Town, W.Va. They are a good group of professionals who take pride in doing it right and doing it best.

They cover their areas and dig out story ideas which they then share with me. We talk about new angles, photo possibilities and multiple sources.

They explain, I listen.

I nag, they listen.

I overexplain, they listen.

I ask them to get more sources and in the same breath urge them to write short.

They occasionally send me a 24-inch story and plead for me not to cut it.

I remind them all stories can be eight inches or longer.

They talk, I listen.

It's a great relationship, a match made in heaven, really.

Meanwhile, I'm designing the front page of the B section of the Herald and placing police briefs, the weather, lotteries and interesting Tri-State wire stories on the second page of the section.

Also, while I'm off the phone - which isn't often, by the way - I am scouring the competition, checking Web sites and proofreading copy. I'm also inundating Herald Managing Editor Linda Duffield and nearby copy editors with questions about style, background and other things I'm learning during my first few months on the job.

It really is an entertaining position that plays to my strengths and allows me to focus on one thing and not thousands like I've done to my chagrin at previous jobs.

This is a newspaper that puts an emphasis on quality journalism, and some days it's mind-boggling how much work and focus can go into one page, one story or one lead paragraph.

But every night it's gratifying to see the final page head to the pressroom, knowing you did your best to put out as good a product as you can for the ultimate editor - you, the reader.

Bill Kohler is Tri-State editor of The Morning Herald. He can be reached at 1-800-626-6397, extension 2023, or by e-mail at billk@herald-mail.com.

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