Editor returns to roots

May 02, 2009|By TIM SHEA

I have been an editor at The Herald-Mail for more than eight years.

On most nights, I edit stories that come in from our reporters. In my early days in the journalism business, I was a news reporter, and when I read some of the stories I have to edit, I kind of miss those good ol' reporting days when I was out among the people.

Now, I get a chance to relive those days as a writer, if only on an occasional basis.

I began my reporting duties in mid-March. City Editor Linda Duffield gave me a couple of assignments that first Tuesday.

One of the assignments involved doing an interview over the phone, while the other was to set up an interview for later in the week.

Not too bad for the first day back as a reporter. But part of why I wanted to be a reporter was to get out of the office once in a while.


The next night, I got out of the office and drove up to Hancock for the town's monthly council meeting.

During the two hours I was up there, I took notes about upcoming events and issues going on in town. I also had a few minutes while the council was in executive session to interview T.R. Weaver Sr., who had been hired as a part-time marketing director for the town.

I had to leave Hancock while the council was in executive session. After all, it was after 9 p.m. and deadline is 11:30 p.m. I had to get back and write enough items to fill our monthly Hancock page.

Now this is why I wanted to get back into reporting. A chance to get out on the front lines, be out among the people again and get the adrenaline rush of having to beat deadline.

Before I left Wednesday night, I tried to call Hancock Mayor Daniel A. Murphy to ask him some questions about a couple of issues, but it ended up being a late night for the council and I didn't get a chance to talk to him.

I returned to my copy editing duties Thursday. About two minutes after I arrived at the office, I got a call. Murphy was on the other end of the line.

One of things I wanted to ask him about was the situation with the former Fleetwood Travel Trailers building. The town had purchased the Fleetwood facility and was managing the property and marketing it to smaller industries.

Murphy gave me the news that the building had attracted its first tenant. This reporting gig was getting better and better.

This was big news -- and good news -- for the town, and it was decided this was a front-page story.

So before I got back into my copy-editing duties, I had a story to write. It took a couple of hours, but I got the story done and ready to edit.

Once the slot editor -- in this case, Joel Huffer -- edited the story, he sent it to the person laying out the front page of the Friday paper.

And who was laying out the front page that night? Me.

I hit the daily double of not only writing a front-page story, but placing it on the page. Since editors usually don't report and reporters usually don't edit, that daily double is a rarity nowadays.

So on those nights when we have enough editors on the copy desk, I get to play reporter. I've covered a meeting the Washington County Commissioners had in Clear Spring where the redistricting issue was hotly debated.

I also got to tag along with reporter Erin Julius one day when she went to court to cover a case involving a man who abandoned his dog, which was found frozen to a tree.

Hopefully, I'll get to keep seeing an "R" next to my name when the schedule comes out. I'll take whatever reporting days I can get. It's been interesting so far.

And maybe the next time there's a meeting or a court case or another event going on in Washington County, I'll be out there among the people again.

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

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