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How not to make a splash among your colleagues

December 16, 2007|By TIM SHEA

Two weeks ago, I spent some time at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla., for a copy editing training session.

It was an intense week, but very rewarding as well. I met copy editors from around the country, as well as two from Canada and another from Singapore. I learned a lot about copy editing and where the newspaper industry is heading.

On the last day of the seminar, the 14 participants presented their final reports about what they would take away from the week.

One by one, class members stood up and presented their findings - some straightforward, others more entertaining.

The final participant decided he wanted to leave the classroom and present his report outside.

So we walked out to the Poynter Institute's Great Hall, then past the doors to a patio area outside.

I was one of the last people outside, so I had to try to find a seat. There was a spot available where two of the benches met, and I figured the best way to get to the spot was to walk behind the benches.


So I started to walk toward the benches with my eye on the available spot. I kept looking forward and taking one step at a time.

Left foot, right foot, left, right, left ...


The next thing I knew, I was submerged in a reflecting pool in the patio.

I had no idea what happened. I guess what was going through my mind was this is how Wile E. Coyote must feel when he goes past the edge of a cliff.

I stood up in the pool, still stunned by what had just happened. Some people were laughing. Some people were wondering if I was OK. Some had no idea how to react.

After I was rescued from the pool, I sat down at the end of the bench, too embarrassed to look at anybody else. The last participant gave his presentation in haiku. He said something about all of the other participants during his presentation. I know I heard my name, but I have no idea what he said about me.

Someone handed me a towel. Someone else found a shirt for me. A couple of people had to go track down my luggage.

Luckily, this was the last day of the seminar, so I had to check out of the hotel and bring my luggage over to the institute. Otherwise, who knows how long I'd have been sitting around in wet clothes, including my just-bought Poynter shirt.

It was only after the last presentation was finished that I realized that not only was I wet, but I also had destroyed my cell phone and had some soaked paper money as well.

So when the final presentation was concluded, I took out the phone and my wallet and set them on the bench. Then I decided ... what the heck, let's jump back into the pool for good measure. I then had to go back in a third time when I realized that somehow, a garbage can went into the pool with me the second time. Thankfully, there wasn't any garbage in it.

About an hour later, our seminar's graduation ceremony was held. The vice president of Poynter said, "So who's the one who ended up in the pool?" He then came over to me with his accordion in hand and started playing his rendition of "Bridge Over Troubled Water."

One by one, participants received their certificates and said a few words. Some were serious, others were amusing.

I grabbed my certificate and said a couple of things, but didn't need to say very much.

I didn't have to. After five days at Poynter, I finally had made a splash.

Tim Shea is a Herald-Mail copy editor. He may be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2329, or by e-mail at

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