Sunday, June 28, 2009

Working the rim

For five and a half years, I worked for a North Carolina newspaper as a rim editor in sports. I always call what I did a desk shift, and people want to know what that involves.

Usually, the sports desk has a slot guy who parcels out local and wire stories to various pages. A page designer (called a paginator in newspaper parlance) lays out the paper, and rim guys call up stories, edit and cut them, and write headlines and cutlines (called captions in the real world).

In 2009 and '10, I worked the desk on a freelance basis lately. The first night, they had to show me how to do a lot of things; I hadn't logged into the computer in about three years, and I didn't remember a lot of stuff.

The first night back, I think it was June 8, we had a paginator, a night editor and two rim editors, including me. I was busy most of the night, but it wasn't hard.

On Thursday, we had a paginator, a slot guy (called the night editor at this newspaper) and a rim guy (me). The night editor was handling baseball and agate, and, fortunately, about five major-league games were played early. I handled most of the files that night, since the night editor was doing so much other stuff.

The NBA draft was being held on Thursday, which means we did a lot of other stuff earlier, and we couldn't get the draft in the paper until late. We're in the middle of North Carolina, so the Atlantic Coast Conference teams, especially Wake Forest University, are big here. We had to do something special on the Duke University player drafted by the "hometown" Charlotte Hornets.

We also had a story on all of the North Carolina Tar Heels being drafted, so Thursday night was a big night for us.

I was able to take my time and give each story special attention early in the night, but that changed. We were in a lull as we watched the first round of the NBA draft on ESPN. Something hit the fan between 10:30 and 11. Our deadline to be off the floor was 12:30 a.m., and we were a little late.

I worked again on Saturday, and we had a paginator, night editor, two rim editors (again, including me) and a person handling calls and agate. I took my time and worked my way through local and national auto-racing stories, a soccer advance, two major-league baseball stories, and much more. I was reading, editing and cutting stories; writing headlines and cutlines (called captions in the real world), and cutting stories to fit.

Once, I had a good headline, but it didn't fit. So I went to the paginator, and she fiddled with it a bit to make it work. No big deal.

I was busy most of the night, but we never went crazy. We finished about 10 minutes before deadline, and everyone but me went home early. My wife was laying out the A and B sections, and news was later than us. I didn't mind; I relaxed, read the Internet and waited to go home.

Easy night.

(NOTE: All of the copy editors were laid off in December of 2010. I haven't worked copy desk since.)

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