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In sickness and in health, we publish news

June 16, 2002|by LINDA DUFFIELD

Here in the newsroom, the editing staff sometimes is down to bare-bones, especially over the summer months when editors head out for vacation.

The optimum number of editors it takes to put out the paper depends on a number of factors, including the size of the paper, the number of local stories, the number of local stories that will be coming in late and the number of pages that are being held for those late local stories.

Sometimes, on a busy night, it isn't pretty.

That's why it's not unusual for The Morning Herald editors to come to work in less than perfect health.

All of us have worked with the flu, terrible colds, upset stomachs and throbbing headaches because we know that if we call in sick, other editors with work of their own to do will have to take on some of our duties.

The feeling among the night editors seems to be that we're part of a team, and we're not going to let our teammates down as long as we can still draw breath.

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There are examples of people who have defied the odds and dragged themselves into the office to pull their shifts, or part of them, despite illnesses and injuries that would keep most people home or send them to the emergency room.

Here are some examples:

-- One guy worked half a shift with a steel shaving in his eye and never said a word to anyone. It was only when we noticed he was unusually quiet and that his eye was getting alarmingly red that he fessed up.

He had been grinding a rusty car fender, and when he took off his safety goggles a tiny metal shaving fell from his hair into his eye. It took us another hour to convince him to go to the emergency room, to assure him that we'd manage to get the paper out without him.

He finally went, but after the shaving had been removed, he returned to make sure we were OK.

-- Another guy worked a full shift while passing a kidney stone, by all accounts an excruciating experience. He wasn't very talkative that night, but he stayed at his desk through most of his shift.

-- Then there's the editor who sat at his desk and suffered with a migraine so bad that after a while he could no longer think. He remained silent for hours, not wanting to mention the problem and pass his work on to someone else.

The headache finally reached the point that he was incapable of doing more than stare at his computer screen on the off chance he'd be able to finish a page.

When he mentioned he was having a bit of a problem, hours had gone by. By then, his mind was so muddled we were afraid to let him drive home, so an editorial assistant gave him a ride.

We've had folks come to work with aching backs, bronchitis, toothaches and nicotine withdrawal.

Editors gut it out even though, by the nature of their jobs, they don't exist for our readers. Their bylines don't run with stories and they have few chances to win awards. No one knows when they catch a misspelled word or an inaccurate piece of information that has made its way into a story. But when they miss something, well, that's another story.

I don't know how it is in other workplaces, but I do know how it is here. We've got a heck of a crew of editors, folks who are dedicated and who take seriously the concept of publishing a newspaper every day.

Linda Duffield is managing editor of The Morning Herald. She can be reached at 301-733-5131, extension 7591, or by e-mail at lindad@herald-mail.com.

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