Well, got back to the grind this week after taking virtually-forced vacation time around Christmas and New Year’s.
I was planning to re-schedule two weeks of cancelled vacation time from the summer to Christmas anyway but Human Resources let me know in the fall that I had unused vacay time and I had better use it before the end of the calendar year. So, being an obedient employee (you know how scary human resource accountants are), I booked the time off around Christmas and left the keys to the editorial car to my able reporters.
Christmas is kind of a tricky time when it comes to putting out the newspaper, so dumping my share of the work onto my two co-workers was not without some challenge. For them. For me it’s great. On my last scheduled work day Dec. 20, I shut down my computer, put on my coat and said, “See ya!”
Of course, it’s not that simple. Work is never far away from your mind when you’re an editor. It doesn’t help that these days, we have to constantly keep in touch with our social media apps like Slack (a popular corporate internal communications forum, if you didn’t know). So, even though I posted the palm tree icon beside my name on the Slack feed indicating “on vacation,” I still monitored all the posts.
The tricky part about the Christmas season for the newspaper publishing business is that you have to accommodate the stat holidays of Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. Especially when they land on a publishing day. That means pres deadlines are pushed ahead, sometimes resulting in two deadlines in one day. The press workers do not work on holidays and that means all the papers served by that press (in Ladysmith with regards to our Vancouver Island papers) have to get their print products in early and within a condensed time frame. More papers to press in fewer days to do them than normal.
That’s so the paper can be put out on the street ahead of Christmas Day and New Year’s Day and not require our paper carriers to work those days. So, hopefully, you got your two papers sometime between Dec. 23 and 27 and again Dec. 30 Jan. 3.
You probably noticed how small the papers were and that they contained a lot of year-in-review type of material. That’s because besides being an appropriate time of year for a look back, there is also not a lot of time to dig up regular content given the short turnaround times between press deadlines. You’ve got to put something on those pages. That’s one fact of newspaper publishing at any time of the year. Even if you don’t have anything, you still have to fill those pages with something.
So, we did a couple of papers on my last day and then I left the rest to the remaining team. They did a good job. Newspapers, have that old tradition of never missing a publication date, regardless of what we have – or don’t have – to put in it. Actually, we have missed one publication date, that I can remember. It was back in the 90’s when there was that massive snowstorm that brought Vancouver Island to a standstill, particularly down-Island communities – Victoria and Ladysmith, where we had our printing presses at the time. Our bosses decided, forget it, cancel the Christmas week papers. They don’t usually have a lot of advertising in them anyway. At that time, we were still driving the physical “flats” of the newspaper pages to the press. Now, of course, it’s all done electronically.
So, it can be kind of a grind around Christmas with getting the newspaper out. But that’s behind us now and we look ahead to the new year. I hope you all had a good Christmas/New Year holiday and that success, health and good times come your way in 2020.
Alistair Taylor is Editor of the Campbell River Mirror.