Not Enough Time

Working at a daily newspaper is quite a roller coaster of emotions. Panic, excitement, panic, wonder, panic, the satisfaction of completing a story…Learning to function and think while on this ride is no easy task. And sometimes it’s frustrating not to be able to do justice to a topic when you know there are so many more layers to consider.

I was given a late assignment today to write about a change in the way a local fishery will be managed. I had about 4 hours to talk to people and write it. Many of the people I wanted to speak with were either out sick, out to sea, or had made a pact not to talk to the media directly.

I was able to speak to someone on the government side of the issue, but my editor wanted me to talk to a fisherman to get another side of the story. By the time I was able to track one down I had half an hour to work his thoughts and explanations into my article.

The article came out with only two perspectives, which I am fretting about. Fisheries management is a huge, complicated issue. I know there’s no way I could have given the time and analysis that all aspects deserved in the amount of time I had, and this worries me.

I’ve been told that newspapers are the first draft of history. But how can we inform people when we’re barely given enough time to bone up on the basics?

This could be a function of the fact that I am not a beat reporter. I’m sure if I did this kind of policy analysis all the time, today would have been easier. I guess I’m just disappointed that I couldn’t do more with it.

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About janejaelee

Jane Lee is a graduate student in the UC Santa Cruz Science Communication Program.
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2 Responses to Not Enough Time

  1. Catherine says:

    I have been relying on editorial guidance to help me make the decision of “in-depth” vs. “on deadline”. Although I often wish I had more time to educate myself about the subjects of my articles, if my editor needs the story by a certain date, the ticking time clock can take priority.

  2. nadiadrake says:

    I started a post with something similar to this, though significantly more cheeky and less incisive. I’ll post it below, mostly because I’m amused by the shape it took.

    What to do when your editor assigns a new story 90 min before deadline:
    1. Panic.
    2. Get over it.
    3. Call some people.
    4. Call some more people.
    5. Walk around for a little bit.
    6. Plot your daring escape.
    7. Type really quickly.
    8. Get it in on time.
    9. Deep breath.
    10. Hide.

    In reality…? Deadlines are a problem. It really is a balance between insightful reporting and beating the clock. I think you’re right, though, that if you had a regular beat, these things would be less problematic. You’d have a list of familiar sources that you could reach in minimal time (theoretically) and enough background to give the story some context without having to learn it from scratch.

    But I think Catherine’s point is good – rely on editors for guidance in those areas. If they want more than you’re giving them, they’ll tell you.

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