Preparation: the secret sauce for success

by Mick Rhodes |

Over my previous six-plus years as reporter and columnist with the COURIER, mine was a simple existence: I worked mostly from home, in flip-flops and shorts, researched and wrote my stuff, and helped in the office with copy editing on Thursdays.

Now as editor I’m in the office every day and must wear pants and shoes. The horror.

I said in my July 7 introductory column it’s going to take some long hours to get comfortable in this new editor’s chair (and pants). That assessment has proven to be correct.

Continuing down my long trail of “this did not work out as planned” columns, today I report that after about month on the job, this editor thing is, well, a lot.

I thought I knew what I didn’t know going into this. Oops! So much to learn. I’m still learning.

As with any job, preparation is the secret sauce that keeps things humming. Last week I took Tuesday off to work a music job I booked several months prior. I later realized in missing that entire day, what ended up on the page at our Thursday pre-print copy edit session was a lot shaggier than it would have been had I been at my COURIER desk editing stories instead of singing songs two days prior. Another oops.

Avoiding typos, misspellings and silly mistakes is everyone’s job here, but it ultimately falls on my shoulders to be sure we’re doing all we can to avoid these embarrassing inevitabilities. Given time, I’m pretty good at it. I found out last week I’m much less effective when I scrunch three day’s work into two. So, if last week’s paper had a doozy or three, please accept my apologies. It’s my fault.

“A man’s got to know his limitations,” according to well-known journalism critic Dirty Harry. I’m feeling this acutely right about now.

Some surprises have been better than others. Among the things I hadn’t anticipated is the sheer volume of passionate, opinionated contributors the COURIER is lucky to have. There are a great many people eager for their voices to be heard, and for that I am very grateful.

But having to decide what runs and what’s not yet ready — which can happen for a variety of reasons from space constraints to unsubstantiated claims of fact — is a sweaty job. It’s a great job to be sure, but it’s delicate business. It uses a muscle I’ve only just begun to develop.

I’ll get better at this with time. That muscle will get stronger and more resilient. I’ll be less sweaty.

I also told readers I want to hear from them, and I have. But I’m surprised there aren’t more letters coming in, both wagging fingers and kudos, more pointed observations from this unique city’s fascinatingly articulate, sometimes verbose, accomplished townsfolk. I guess that part of the editorial content ebbs and flows just like the news cycle.

It’s also been eye-opening to see just how much work goes into making the COURIER appear every Friday in your mailboxes, on newsstands and online. Our reporters work hard, long hours to accurately disseminate Claremont’s news and produce compelling feature and profile stories.

Our secret weapon — editorial designer/web producer Skylar Anderson — clicks away stoically throughout the week, especially on Thursdays, guiding the look of the physical paper, website, newsletter, and our various social media accounts, seemingly immune to the noisy drama of the newsroom. She’s the behind-the-scenes glue of the entire editorial side of things. I’ve surely leaned on her a whole lot over the past month.

And I’m just heading up the editorial department. The sales, marketing and accounting sides have their own small, mighty group of small-town news superstars. The making of the sausage is indeed something to behold.

I’d like to say I’m getting my sea legs, but I think it’s more like I’m getting my foot in the door. A month ago, I asked for patience. I’m re-upping that request. I’ll get there. We’ll get there.

And in the meantime, please keep your passionate communiqués coming to

I’m meeting new friends, hearing new opinions, and drinking a lot of coffee from Crème and Some Crust as I get to know you all. It’s been a joyful, if humbling, journey thus far.



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