Confession, they say, is good for the soul. “They,” being correct about so many things, are worth listening too here as well (if conventional wisdom is to be trusted). So here, let’s try it, here we go: I have a confession to make.
I’ve been seeing other newspapers.
Well, okay, I know you have to catch your breath for a moment, maybe put down the paper and stare for a moment at some distant point as you process this new reality. I know. After all, if “they” are correct, confession’s good for my soul, but your results may vary.
But first some backstory: It’s a decision every week what stories to put in the paper. There’s, even in sleepy ol’ Van Buren County, more stories than you can imagine. So yeah, people go out and do crimes or otherwise cause mayhem, and at other times people do - we’ll call them “nice” things. They come together to support some great cause, some greater people, and then act on it.
And last week we’re putting the paper together and we note that a local police officer had done a nice thing. He reached out to help some family by getting their son a new bicycle to replace the fairly-new one which had just been stolen. So, you know, that’s a good story. Other stuff was going on, of course. Fairfield Bay’s City Council had met the night before press deadline and that deserved to be reported. So the question became “Which story goes first? Which story on the front page, and which story on the top of the front page?”
Meanwhile, deadline’s ticking. The people who run the business side of this thing, the people who pay for printing presses and mailing labels and that sort of thing, they’re actually pretty easy to get along with, save for one, solid, never-changing, point: The paper must be done at deadline. Period. No exceptions, no excuses. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not sending a rocket to the moon or anything, but when the tugboats show up to push the ship out of port, it’d better be untied from the dock, you know?
So anyway, in getting ready to untie the ship, the decision was made to put the Clinton Police officer’s story on the top of the page (I’m not naming him here. He, like most cops, doesn’t care all that much for his name in print, as opposed to seeing the department in print. Oh, but I’ll be naming a cop here in a couple minutes. Don’t you worry ‘bout a thing. Meanwhile if you got to know his name, go back and look at last week’s paper - if you aren’t using it for wrapping fish yet.)
So now the Clinton Police story, that’s in the computer, loaded for the top of page one. Last detail, last job for last week: Write the headline. “Local police” wouldn’t do, since as a county paper we cover several police departments, so put the city’s name in, right? This is big-time journalism and precision is what you get, right? Right? (A: Of course it is.) So last thing, type the headline, tell layout the paper’s ready. Layout does its thing, gets the paper all words-organized-on-paper and I proofread it. Proofread, right? Of course we proof. That’s what we call it in the trade, “proof.” Because to put “read” after that would take too long, and this is big-time journalism. We’re in a hurry. But yeah, it’s laid out, the editor’s proofed the pages, send it to print! Go man! Ship’s clear of the dock, let’s get this show on the road!
The next morning, it’s like every Wednesday. Walk in the door, shout “How’s the paper look?” Grab one off the stack and see what this ship looks like now that it’s underway.
Oh. No. Oh no no no. No. Oh. Oh no. Sit at the desk, rub the temples (not a metaphor) and call the Clinton Police.
“Yeah, it’s Alex with the paper… Yeah, fine thanks, listen, when you see today’s paper, that headline on top? That’s supposed to say ‘Clinton Police’ not ‘Conway police.’ Yeah… yeah, I know… yeah, no, that’s funny, but listen, get the word out, would you please? I feel terrible about this.”
See, on the side, I do a little work for the Conway paper. Mostly it has to do with police reports, I read a lot of Conway Police reports. So a lot of times I type “police” I know “Conway” is going to be nearby. Especially when those stupid tugboats are making those “toot toot” noises ‘cause it’s time to get the stupid ship underway and hurry up Alex…. (*sigh*)
Clinton (as in “Clinton”) Police Chief John Willoughby - who’s exhibited a remarkable sense of humor about this error, as has the rest of the force - has taken to addressing me as “Conway.”