Putting community in newspaper

Published 9:21 pm Friday, December 11, 2009

There are a number of things they don’t teach you in journalism school. It is pretty natural that everyone has this idealistic vision of themselves in a chaotic newsroom, racing a deadline to break a major story. Or, if your aim is sports journalism, you want to cover the big events: the Super Bowl, the Final Four, the World Series. What they don’t teach you about is community journalism. No one tells you of how you will be the sports editor in name only and the entire sports department in actuality. They don’t explain to you the need to be flexible and multi-talented. What they really don’t tell you about is the need to realize that, on a small staff, everything is your job. Picking up the dead rat? Your job. Cleaning the smelly sink? Your job. Chaning out broken racks? Your job. Sweeping the floor? Your job.

It is the way the world works. There is a lot to be done and very few people to do it. No one is exempt.

But the best part is that you develop a camaraderie, a very familial relationship with your coworkers. And you get through the days and take your mind off of all the things that need doing by making one another laugh at stupid jokes or playing fantasy football or looking up random old comic books on a pricing Web site. You listen to Christmas music together and laugh at one another’s idiosyncrasies.

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They tell you how to do interviews and how to break stories and the proper form for writing articles.

Nobody tells you about how to form relationships with the people in your building and the people in your community. Those are things you have to learn on your own. Those are the things that make you get out of bed on Monday and not mind that you have to go to work.

Because picking up the rat and cleaning the sink and taking pictures and writing stories and pulling a few extra bylines to help the greater good doesn’t really feel like work when you are blessed enough to get to do them all with people about whom you genuinely care. Then, those things are just part of living, like they would be in any other family.

Jeremy D. Smith is the sports editor of the Demopolis Times