Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Inside the Newsroom (What you're not supposed to know)

A peek into the Newsroom
Have you ever been inside a newsroom? If not, then read on. If you have, please read on.
Newsrooms vary in size, color, shape, smell, atmosphere and the occupants of the newsroom but they all serve the same purpose. It is where stories are ‘sliced and diced, prepared, cooked and left to the editor for serving.’
 I haven’t been to a sophisticated newsroom, but I can bring you to the newsrooms that I have lived in—just three actually, in a span of 10 years going 11 (where else? lol)
I’ll take you to my current newsroom which has been my extension house for over five years now, and hope my co-reporters and those in the higher-ups won’t get my hide for this. I will try not to be as graphic as possible to hide some of the dirty secrets. 

Coffee, one of the basics of any newsroom.
Our newsroom is where the smell of food and coffee will greet you when you open the door, where unwashed cups of coffee are found in some computers stations including mine, though not all reporters drink the poison. It is where individual trash cans are filled up with crumpled papers and food leftovers (oh not anymore lately after the office issued a directive to throw food leftovers outside). It is a room separated by a glass door from all the other sections of the building, where one is never free from the ringing of telephones, where reporters take on an automatic ‘autistic mode’ when they enter, especially in the late afternoon which is deadline time.
 My current newsroom is just a narrow blue and white room with six computer stations all lined up on the side of one wall. The other side is the ‘pathway’, which, translated, means there is no privacy as everyone can see anyone’s computer screen. We don’t have the private cubicles that sophisticated newsrooms do.
When I joined Marianas Variety in 2008, most of the computers have CRT screens and we shared a very close relationship with the screen just a few inches from our faces. Thankfully LCD screens were born.

Privacy is an unheard of thing in the newsroom. It’s where you talk to someone or interview news sources on the phone and everyone can hear it. The cold blast from the aircon unit is another thing. If we turn it on, occupants on the first three stations claim they freeze, including me. If we turn the A/C off, the other three occupants of the room claim they are burning in hell. There’s just no halfway about it. If I forget my jacket at home, I can never stay long in the freezer aka newsroom.
In fact, I blame the A/C for the writer’s block a lot of the times—my brain just freezes with the cold.
here is my station, the space i call "mine'
I’ll skip the details of whose station is which so you’ll have some work looking for whom if you visit the newsroom.I do believe in reporter protection program, but if you plan to deliver coffee, chocolate or flowers, mine is Desk 3. Haha  

There is no TV set in our newsroom, but we have a radio where we can tune in for the 6 pm news on KSPN to check if we missed anything big, and music for the rest of the time.
The most intimate relationship I have in the newsroom is with my desktop, especially the keyboard. It is the mute witness to all my moods—the daily pressures, joys and frustrations and everything else.  

Back in my Sunstar days in Davao, we have a somewhat square spacious newsroom with our computers against the wall, and our backs to each other, which meant we also don’t have privacy. Everyone can see our monitors. There is a TV set where we can watch the news, and a padded bench beneath it where anyone can just spread out his limbs to grab 40 or 41 winks when needed but they just moved to a new office.
My newsroom in Palau for Island Times newspaper is far from memorable. We used to be housed in individual cubicles alongside the cubicles computer technicians and everyday was pure hell listening to their blaring music, translated ear-splitting noise, until we were transferred to another room. There were only three of us, and since the paper comes out only twice a week, we don’t have the same pressure as the daily news.

Lucky Me?
I entered the newsroom arena when computers are already in existence and editing is done through the network servers.I haven’t experienced being in the newsroom during the heavy Underwood typewriter days. Those were the days where reporters and editors have become masters of shooting the crumpled balls of papers containing disoriented thoughts into the waste bins.

I didn’t experience the agony of seeing ‘red marks’ in my drafts (those days are forever buried in the transcripts of history, during the Formal Theme writing days) In short, I haven’t mastered the art of dodging when your editor crumples your thoughts on paper and hurl the ball at you for spreading your confusion to the readers but I have had my share of stories from those who had been there.
Some reporters still carry the habit of pounding on the hard typewriter keyboards and bang the soft touch computer keyboards loud and strong. Poor keyboards.

Peace on earth can be experienced at the newsroom in the mornings because everybody is usually out but if you want to see what a madhouse looks like, visit in the afternoon, and you will get a taste of what a newsroom looks and feels like. Just don’t be hurt though if no one will entertain you. Everyone will be short-tempered and immersed in their own worlds with headphones plugged into their ears as they try to transcribe interviews from their recorders.

I guess I did not reveal everything but I will keep my eye open for emails from my boss or co-workers I guess. Lol. Watch out for more! The worms haven’t started to crawl out yet.

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