Journalism, Christmas, and My Obsession

Yesterday morning, I got up before the ass-crack of dawn to go with the Rose Thorn staff to Indy for the Hoosier State Press Association (HSPA) Foundation 2003 Newsroom Seminar. We ate doughnuts in the Thorn office and departed around 06:45. I decided to ride with the Thorn’s own George Dawkins, as he was stopping at McDonald’s (yuck, I know), and two doughnuts do not count as a decent breakfast. Not that grease wrapped in paper and served with orange juice is any better, of course, but my options were limited.

On that note, I have to officially revise my opinion on the Thorn’s own George Dawkins. Along the way, we chatted about books, classes, professors, etc., and got along quite well. He’s a moderately safe driver (even if he never uses his turn signal and drives a bit fast–see, my standards are lowering), funny (he had me giggling at McDonald’s, and it’s hard to be funny at 07:00, trust me), and smart (not that I ever doubted that, really). As long as he doesn’t open his mouth about the paper, on which topic he immediately becomes an annoying ass to be taken out and shot, we get along swimmingly. Honestly. We were in a seminar titled “Advanced Course on Theme and Progression”, and a topic for discussion was the “Back-into-corner question”, that stuff reporters are known for asking, yes? Well, the Thorn’s own George Dawkins had had some trouble in that when he wrote an article that included the (unpleasant) responses to hard-hitting questions, he got some flak from his sources. This wouldn’t be such a problem, except that, at Rose, we have a very limited number of sources (namely, the administration), and if you piss ’em off too much, they just won’t talk to you. Then we’re stuck writing articles about the wonders of co-op’ing. At any rate, the seminar speaker had criticized an article for not including such hard-hitting questions, and just covering surface facts, and the Thorn’s own George Dawkins asked what the speaker would do if he was in a situation like ours. As soon as he asked his question, he again seemed like the uptight, annoying prick that barked and bit our editors into a corner over this issue when the article was being edited (and other issues with another article). I’m all for defending the integrity of your writing. Most definitely. It’s his writing, he’s a good writer, and he deserves respect for both of those. However, in writing for submission to a newspaper, it’s understood that the editors are there to find [what they perceive to be] the flaws in the article and take into account the potential feedback from the article. It’s the same reason we edit articles that have bad structure or use the word fuck. When a news piece has an editorial slant, we try to fix it, usually with feedback from the writer. But respect the fact that the editors know what they’re doing (as much as our “journalists” do, anyway), and that we will have the last word. Don’t be a prick and pull that, “Well, then you can’t print my quote in that article, so now that article is worthless for printing” or bitch about how much your punch is being pulled in an article that was still slanted when we printed it for weeks after. It’s done. Write a letter to the editors complaining about it, and we’ll print that, too. All the editors and the writers took their medicine on that last one, so get over it. He hasn’t written a news article since, I don’t think, which is not a bad thing, as my mini-boss would probably leave any arguing up to me, Luke, and Bob, that just couldn’t go well. He is a good writer, though.

But we can chat about anything else other than the paper, and that’s a good revelation, right?

The seminars were good, all around. I attended one on page design (which is what I’m starting to love) that was quite helpful on giving ideas on ways to do things. The second one I attended (it was a double-session seminar) was the “Advanced Course on Theme and Progression”, which (thank goodness) most of the writers that were with us attended, as there were some very good stylistic tips there. Now I better know what to look for in an article, and maybe I can swing my mini-boss my way in more of the arguments we have over some of the stories we have submitted to us that read like high school informative essays. It’s a notable lack of theme (or conflict) and progression.

And with no appropriate transition at all:

Reading Karsh’s piece on Christmas (click the link and go read–it’s good) brought back the reality of my Christmas this year. I have two birthdays to handle this Christmas season (one was yesterday, the other is my mother’s on the 21st), then Christmas for family, college friends, and Charlotte friends. I also have to fund my trip back to Terre Haute, which means, at the very least, gasoline for Johnny (my car) and food and lodging for the Old Man and company–I can do that fun eat-before-you-leave-then-eat-again-13-hours-upon-arrival thing. I also have an insurance bill to pay for January. If I take care of my bill (you know you’re young when you don’t even have bills) and the trip, I’ll be the only one not slinging the gifts at Christmas or birthdays. I’m already feeling that bum-guilt of getting but not giving. There are, of course, alternatives to giving gifts that require money, which is something I like to do every once in a while, just because, if you do it right it has more emotional meaning, but to do that for everyone screams that I’m broke, and that’s not incentive for feeling that Christmas-y feeling. So I’ll back up Karsh’s “Bah. Humbug.” with a “Bah-fucking-humbug. And don’t even talk about Christmas, or I’ll rip off (or out, depending on gender) your gonads and feed ’em to my little sister.”

Again, with no transition:

I spent Friday afternoon, evening, and night working on My Obsession–namely this site. I forsook (hey, it was in the dictionary) my homework, my dinner, my workout, and got dees irrsinn dot net sheet back in order. My search engine is fixed and working, I added a little “Contact Page”, and I went in and put in accessibility features that were lacking previously (just in case any text-only browsers swing by, or blind readers). (On a sidenote, Access Keys [now implemented] are ridiculously cool. If you’re in Windows, anywhere on my site, press Alt+4 [not F4], and focus will jump to the search box on the right. Alt+1 will take you the front page of the site, etc. The full listing is on the accessibility statement). I also (re)validated old archives, which required some tweaking of BlogWorks XML to get rid of its annoying tendency to stick paragraph tags of the class “post” around my entries, thus breaking the XHTML since I put paragraph tags around each paragraph. I also, in the interest of having everything be searchable, republished the essays as XHTML documents as well as PDFs. I would like to officially give a “Fuck you” to Microsoft for putting those damn curly quotes in documents as default. I’ve changed the settings to not do that anymore, of course, but I still had to fight with the change of double dashes to… I think they’re called “em’s” or something, but it wasn’t in my dictionary, and ellipses to that squished up one-character ellipses. The problem was that I couldn’t just search and replace for the odd characters in HTML-Kit, as it would only find the odd character once, not the 10 times they were hidden throughout the essay. Le sigh. Oh, and I finally edited and posted the Galatea 2.2 essay. Minus a three-hour break to try to teach The Other One some XHMTL and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) (god, that woman is annoying and ungrateful when I’m already tired as hell and trying to teach her something), I worked until about 01:00 Saturday morning. Saturday’s bedtime was definitely around 21:00, particularly after the way my workout left me strangely stiff and achy. I did finish Dune before hitting the hay, however. Yay!

[Listening to “The Second One” [Remy Shand / The Way I Feel]]