Sunday, February 19, 2006

Tell about the places you’ve worked

I've challenged myself to do a weekly entry on topics assigned by my church {See the Jan 22 blog entry}

This week the topic was vacations spent with family members. I drew a complete blank. So I decided to revisit the first challenge set forth. "Tell about the places you've worked."
So the question is ~ do I write about the physical environment?
The process of doing the job itself?
The wide variety of jobs themselves?
There are so many directions I can go with this challenge, I’m not exactly sure what to do. If anyone has been reading my musings for any length of time, you’ve figured out I can write 20 inches about what I found on the bottom of my shoe this morning. This topic is wide open, but I’ll try to boil it down.
My one and only non-printing related job was working as a clerk for a convenience store. I worked something like two summers between college at the Maverick Country Store, one of a chain of stores founded by people who attended my church.
I learned important skills from this job like how to make coffer, run a cash register and sass customers. The sassing has been a particularly useful skill as I have progressed in other areas of my life.
It’s hard to pinpoint my first job in the print industry. I took my first journalism class as a sophomore in high school and worked on the newspaper/ yearbook the next two years. During my senior year in high school I did an internship with the local weekly newspaper / printing press. Like most small newspapers of the day, the front of the shop was also a store where office supplies were sold.
This job introduced me to the glorious, mysterious part mechanical, part mental world of printing presses.
My first two years of college were spent in a two year school in Idaho. By the second year I had worked myself into the job of “Woman’s Editor.” I think I earned a small scholarship for the job, but I don’t remember.
When I moved on to Utah State University, I started working the teletype machine. I didn’t do much writing, but I read all the news, selected top national and world news stories, typed them, edited them and laid them out for the paper. For this I received the grand sum of $80 a month.
The first time I supported myself with my newspaper earnings was during a summer internship for the “Preston Citizen.” This newspaper is in a town on the Idaho/Utah border. I lived in Logan and commuted to work all summer.
The newspaper was in one of the oldest buildings in town.
I have since learned most newspapers are in one of the oldest buildings in town. It seems when pioneers settled into a community they built a church, then a printing press. The churches were eventually adopted by local historical societies or church headquarters and made into a museum or tabernacle. The newspaper buildings just kept adding onto the building, shoving aside old equipment as new equipment was added.
These buildings smell like dust, ink and newspaper. The newsroom is always in the least convenient part of building, and the advertising department is in the most attractive and easily accessible part of the building.
I have also come to know that advertising needs the pretty space to entertain the public / clients. Newsrooms, on the other hand, are kept isolated for fear our cynicism might spread and infect the rest of the population.
I believe I was officially injected with the printer’s ink that now flows in my blood while I was working at the “Preston Citizen.”
Publishers of this newspaper also owned and published papers in Grace, Idaho, Montpelier, Idaho and perhaps other towns, I don’t recall. But all of the newspapers were printed in Preston.
Since the employee parking lot was in the back, I walked through the press room on a regular basis to get to my little green Pontiac Venture with the white interior. One day as I passed through the press room I brushed up against a barrel of ink with my white vest. Unaware of the ink, I climbed into my car and smeared it generously around the white interior. For the record, if you think your newspaper is messy, try getting fresh printer’s ink out of a white lambs wool seat cover. It can’t be done.
My summer internship lead to a job as editor/writer of the “Montpelier News Examiner.” The “News Examiner” no longer had a printing press, but there was still plenty of old printing equipment knocking around the building. I’ll confess, I coveted the trays of movable type, the gynormous paper cutter and the reams of paper sitting around neglected in the back of the building.
The newspaper building was next to the town bar, and every now and then I was obliged to chase off an inebriated bar patron who had wandered in the wrong back door by mistake. But this didn’t happen often.
Although I had learned to use a computer on the college newspaper, the “News Examiner” didn’t cotton to the newfangled machines. I had a typewriter in my office where I filed my stories. I took my own photographs and developed and printed the photos in the office darkroom. Then I assembled the weekly newspaper after the typesetter entered it into the machine.
Truth to tell, I was in over my head. But I was young and stupid, so I just did the best I could and learned a lot along the way.
Eventually I moved on to a bigger newspaper. On Jan 2, 1985 I started a job as a reporter for “The Daily Spectrum.” I had a brand new car and a new car payment. I was in a strange city and I was starting a new year. It was heady business.
The job was great because finally I had co-workers and I was back on a computer. We stored our news stories on floppy disks, just like the computers I had used years ago when I worked on the college newspaper.
The newsroom was in the basement of the building. In the summer we shared our space with black widow spiders. In the winter we wore mittens as we typed because we were so cold.
One of the highlights of my year in Cedar City was covering the Utah Shakespearean Festival. I interviewed an up and coming actor, Patrick Page. He was cute as a button and very talented. Many years later I watched the television program “A Wedding Story” where Paige Davis married Patrick Page. Yep, the same Patrick page I interviewed for the USF. Paige Davis was the host for the popular television show “Trading Spaces” for a few years.
I was eventually moved from Cedar City to work with the main newspaper office in St. George, Utah.
This was a shock to my system, as the newspaper had just built a brand new building. What’s more, the newsroom wasn’t hidden in some dark corner; we were out there on the floor where any passing visitor could see us. That didn’t stop us from behaving like, well, a newsroom. The best times were working nights after the phones were silenced and there was no one around but our brash, irreverent selves.
I worked as editor of the weekly Church magazine for a while before I moved to work as editor of the features section. After several years I left the newspaper to focus on being a full time wife and mother.
When Logan was a baby I worked for a few hours a week at a printers supply company. (I did not like that job) before I started working as a clerk for Deseret Book selling tomes published by the company owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I loved this job. They let me take home books and read them so I would be knowledgeable about the subject. As I love to read, this was like getting manna from heaven.
I had to quit Deseret Book when I was pregnant with Adam. For several years I happily settled into being a mommy until Adam went to kindergarten. Then in February of 2006 I started working for a newspaper again.
This time I am working from home, filing my stories via the internet, downloading photos to the computer and sending it all off to be edited and printed with a few keystrokes.
I am rarely in the newsroom. But, still, the newspaper / printing press is one of the oldest buildings in town. The newsroom is on the second floor, up a set of rickety stairs. Old printing equipment has been pushed aside to make room for new. The place smells of newsprint, ink and dust.
I don’t usually “hear” the when the printing press starts up. But I still feel it. The printers ink in my blood vibrates with the rhythmic, mechanical, magical noise of thoughts becoming words, becoming newspapers.

2 comments:

Bro said...

Oh, the sounds of industry. I'll be deaf as "poor Jan" in no time. I didn't know you worked for the SVI.

Mom said...

And (inevitably) becoming fish wrap. Your blog will last longer. (I hope you are printing it out for your children's sake) What a great gift it will be to your future posterity. If you print out the comments I will have a tiny and snippy footnote in your history. To be edited out by a kind soul with no sense of humor.