The Dickensian side of newspapers

Those of us who make our living putting words to digital screens and then eventually paper, often worry at this time of year about how we’re going to fill the flurry of newspaper editions that come at us like a blizzard in Saskatchewan.

Because of the holidays, many of our deadlines are moved ahead and the time available to put together a series of newspapers is compressed. This edition, for example, went to press last Friday at noon (it would normally go to press at noon on Tuesday). Dec. 25’s edition (actually coming out on the 24th) went to press at noon on Monday. So it becomes a challenge to fill a publishing schedule that’s more like a daily newspaper than anything else.

The best part about it, of course, is it concludes with the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. Time off and time spent with families and friends. Prior to that, it’s the busiest time of the year for newspapers.

I once worked for the Yukon News in Whitehorse and our paper’s owner would just shut the paper down between Christmas and New Years. that was pretty nice. That was when it was independently owned like the Mirror was when I got here. Then Mirror owner Gerry Soroka was more of “the through rain sleet and snow we will publish no matter what!” ilk. Never miss an edition. And Black Press – in fact, most companies – are of that approach too. We only missed one edition here and it was that one year – 1996 – when the Island – and Victoria particularly – got a massive snow dump that shut the rock down.

Our paper was to be driven to the press in Ladysmith but the highway was a mess. Our boss Manfred Templemayer decided to scrap that printing rather than risk the driver taking a tiny paper to the press. Now, of course, it is sent electronically.

So, we press on at this time of the year wondering how we’re going to fill a newspaper coming at us practically day after day. We always manage to fill it with something .

But we frequently joke that we’re going to have to write personal columns about our favourite Christmas memories and stuff like that. That’s because you can’t always predict what news is going to happen and like a farmer, we always fear that this year will be the one when the crop completely fails, sorry, I mean, when we just can’t find enough material to fill the paper.

What do we do then?

“Sorry Dave, we just don’t have enough.”

It would be the reverse of Oliver where we would be the little orphan walking up to the company and timidly saying “Please sir, we don’t have any more.” And the Boss would exclaim, “Wha-a-a-at!?”

Then we’d be chased by the bosses hearing, “Catch him! Snatch him! Hold him! Scold Him! Pounce him, trounce him! Pick him up and bounce him!”

Sometimes we wonder if I we can run blank pages and the readers can use them for their kids’ drawing books.

Of course, that never happens. We always find something to fill the pages. There’s no such thing as don’t publish. But there are times looking ahead, I wonder how we do it.

There are some people who don’t quite realize what goes into filling a paper with editorial content. It’s not creative writing where you sit before your computer screen and just make something up. I know, there are some people who believe that’s actually what we do but it’s not.

Except when we’ve run out and we’re desperate for ideas. Kind of like this column. LOL.

Merry Christmas everybody.








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