All by myself

My boss has been away for the past week (nearly two actually). I’m still sane, well as sane as I was before she went away. Any kind of sanity is quite debatable…but for the sake of this post, let’s just say I’m sane.

While the last paper in her absence is still to be published and it could very well be a disaster (it shouldn’t be, but for the sake of ‘touching wood’ I’m covering all bases), I feeling like I actually did ok. I’m an organiser, I love lists and calendars, and appointments more than I love chocolate. But being two people for two weeks does make my head hurt a little.

The thing with getting a paper to print and writing stories for it is more challenging than one might think. I picture myself as that person who stands in front of an orchestra and waves a wand. One of the most hair-raising blood boiling parts though, is the damn phone. That thing never stops ringing! I have resisted the urge to do the ‘pick up slam down’ on multiple occasions. I also think I may have pissed off a PR person when I said no they couldn’t see the article before it went to print, and I didn’t even feel bad.

THIS IS TURNING ME INTO A MONSTER.

But I’m coping just fine. Some people read ‘self-help’ guides, other see counselors, some drink wine. Me, well I tuck myself into bed with whatever I found in my fridge to make dinner with, and watch a programme where the main character is a conqueror.

And by that I mean someone who’s able to cope with life 95 per cent of the time in a comical kind of fashion but falls apart the other 5 per cent.

It gives me some relief to see other people fail and get back up again or to struggle with life in general but still be kick ass at it.

I think one of the cruelest things I’ve done to myself is buy a really nice bed and live in a house with a view. It takes some serious will to actually leave it some mornings. I mean, it takes more will than not wetting my pants when I drink two liters of water before a five hour drive.

Never the less, I am here. I’m dressed. I didn’t bring my snuggly blanket. I’m even wearing heels and makeup. think I’ve mastered today.

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Long weekend here I come!

It is with great pleasure I sit here, enjoying my feijoas and passionfruit that I only paid the prices of peaches for and gluten free toast, having survived my first week of Danielle, my boss, being away.

Short weeks are usually challenging enough, but with Easter right in the middle of Dani’s time off, my to do list got so long I threw it out. But hey, I made it…and with surprising ease. With so much ease, that I’m wondering what earth shatteringly important thing I may have forgotten.

I do think though, I’m far more worn out that I realise. I think I’m just running on pent up adrenalin because I keep doing rather dumb things, like driving my car down my driveway to the fruit and veg store directly across the road from my house. But never the less, I have four whole days of sleeping and relaxing to recover.

I’m pretty sure today was ‘PR person day’… I answered six phone calls and had nearly 20 emails solely from PR people. Now, I usually have no issue with PR people, they’re rather helpful really and I appreciate a timely press release. But this week, and this day, I must say I was struggling by the last one to be a nice person. And I am a nice person.

Thanks to a rather talented intern we had a great story on our FB page today…actually the quality of interns this year (and last too of course) has been very pleasing. I felt like a real adult making boss like decisions. I got to put my important person hat on!

Anyway, it’s a long weekend, there’s sun to be basked in, beaches to sink my toes into, and wine to fill my tummy with. Off to the Bay of Islands (New Zealand) I go.

Gosh I love my country.

It’s the little things

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I have some pretty crappy days as a reporter. You get a lot of hate at times. Not always because you have done something wrong, people just don’t always like you asking questions.

But then you have people like this.

I have done many stories for small organisations need a leg up and a head start in the community. Most are really thankful and nothing makes my day more than a ‘love the article’ or ‘thank you!’ email. But this particular organisation went the extra mile and had a hat made which said ‘No.1 reporter’ on it where normally it would say ‘coach’ or ‘fighter’ (it’s a local boxing club). They are doing some fantastic work with young people, and people in general, and it was so nice to receive such a thoughtful gift!

It is people, businesses, and organisations like this, who need a helping hand, that make my job so worth while! These people make me remember why I do this job.

#it’sajournalistsworld

I might get into trouble with this post. But I haven’t done anything that’s even a little offensive lately… so I thought I’d shake it up. I’d like to start with: PR people are great. They do, a lot of the time, make my job much easier and I thoroughly appreciate them and how hard their jobs must get at times… but this first year of journalism has revealed certain categories of PR people, they are as follows.

The over enthusiast – fantastic amounts of information. Like, so much information I stare at my screen with a ‘how… how do you even do that?’ The first email normally has a really helpful amount in it… but it can get a little out of hand from there. Phone calls of over enthusiasm… I just can’t handle that sort of positivity on deadline.

The ‘do it yourselfer’ – ok, these guys can be really good, I’d probably prefer this to the soon to come ‘don’t do anything yourselfers’. But normally my workload makes me want to hang my head, then take it a little further to killing my keyboard with it. So, the first email with minimal information followed with a email containing the bare minimum contact details for the said people I thought could be interesting to talk to, just sort of makes me want to cry.

The ‘must vet any questions or you might spin this in the most negative way possiblers’ (also referred to don’t do anything yourselfers’) – these can sometimes be the most helpful, as I don’t really have to do my job. But the inner control freak in me makes me imagine violent things. I PROMISE I WILL BE A NICE JOURNALIST AND NOT BE MEAN, JUST LET ME ASK THE QUESTIONS AND DO THE INTERVIEW MYSELF! Whew… you see? Does bad things to my personality.

The… I just don’t even know – these ones are great for a good chuckle. They never fail to amuse me with short emails. Helpful and straight to the point, but seem to think you lack intelligence. That’s ok, as long as you keep being helpful, I can roll with that. I often refrain myself from replying ‘well… yes’ in emails.

The press release rewrite… might as well put a byline on that story – we all have bad days. I would probably struggle to write a press release. I nearly failed PR at tech, so I can’t talk. But, these guys are the SUPER positive press release writers… usually it’s several emails later you find there is a completely different angle to an average story, suddenly it could be the best thing since sliced bread. It just comes a few emails too late.

The ‘when’s your deadliners’ – usually the ‘when’s your deadline? There’s an event happening this weekend’ comes just shortly after you’ve gone to print on Thursday. It’s not their fault, they don’t know. But for future reference, if it’s a weekly paper and it comes out on a Friday, I can tell you right now, their deadline is WELL before Thursday. Try something like the week prior to the event if you have any hope in hell making some progress.

Finally, the ‘I WANT TO HUG YOU RIGHT NOW!’ – these guys are my favourite, as the name would suggest. They start an email off short and straight to the point. They are polite, but not too nice. Just the right amount of nice that I can tolerate on a bad day. They give you multiple ways of contacting people, the angle of the press release is correct, and there is enough info which enables you to follow up and get the right quotes, without having to spend hours researching a rather small story. It’s done in half an hour and usually a pic comes with it. These people, if I ever met them in real life, I would hug them. Possibly pick them up and spin them around a few times too.

So there you have it. A little insight into part of my job… and the people that come with it. There are many types of sources and people I interview. Provided I survive this post, I might have to bring those… and journalists too, to you next.

So the week begins

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Above is a small insight into where I live. I had a million things to write in this blog when I wrote the title and took the picture, now, sitting my bed, with a candle lit, watching the clock, telling myself it’s time to sleep, having written a story I’m freaking out a little about, listening to music that makes it all a little better. At the same time, reminding myself I should not use the word ‘that’ so often, and I should really learn to spell check everything, and proof read too.

Life is this crazy sort of ladder, you spend years going through primary school, feeling so out of your depth, not knowing what to do, then you finally reach your final year – on top of the world, and you made it. Then you start intermediate, from the bottom again, having no idea what to do.

So it goes, eventually, you make your way out of college, apprenticeship etc. You start work, once again, it’s a whole new world and you’re in it, waist deep, but you learnt to swim – thank goodness – but it’s just as daunting as that first day at primary school.

My boss is away for two weeks, I get to step up and take over while she’s away. There has never been a moment where I doubted my ability to do so. It is one of the strange things about me, it takes serious failure to make me doubt myself.

However, rather than waist deep, I’m treading water. I’m really bad at floating. I’m a sink or swim sort of person. So, I want to do the best possible job I can – and then better some more.

I have my floaties on just in case. I can do it. But I’m also scared. Few things scare me, but failure is one of them.

But fear is what drives us, or me at least, to fear of failure keeps me up late at night, it makes me work harder to correct mistakes, to prevent mistakes.

And I want to sleep, I want to hide, I want to run. But I also, want to be better than I know I can be.

A friend seemed surprised I didn’t work on weekends. I do, sometimes, actually work. But the honest truth is I never stop working. Even when I’m not writing in the office or interviewing, I don’t stop. My mind thinks of different angles, it takes lessons and uses then in small talk conversations, it tries to piece together different puzzles to make it all work.

I am always working. Even in my sleep. Because I am a writer. I don’t ever stop being a writer.

So, can I do it? Yep. Is it a big deal? Nope. Am I still going to worry? Sure am. Will I look back and laugh because I was so scared? Definitely. Will things go wrong? Pretty certain. Is it the end of the world? Most definitely not. Am I excited? Sure am.

I live off fear, it’s why I jump horses, snow board down mountains, jump off and out of things, why I love heights. I love fear – it motivates me.

So bring on tomorrow.

Enough of my weird ramble. I’ll try to be funny some other time.

Cheerio.

My mental health is in order

I’ve had a number of people concerned about my emotional and/or mental health lately after reading my recent blogs. I’m ok, I promise, I’m fantastic in fact.

I would just really like to hit someone with a council agenda.

I’m not going to. I would probably get in trouble, possibly lose my job. Something like that. So I wont. I’m also a really nice person. Somewhere, deep down, I am a really good person. This is what I sing to myself, as I rock in a corner, in the foetal position.

This, is my current state of mind. No, you shouldn’t be worried. I am in fact rather happy.

You just have to spend enough hours going through council agendas, Proposed District Plans, rating systems, and have a desk which looks like the plague of sticky notes, to understand how one gets to this state of mind.

My uncle, who is also a journalist at a weekly paper, came to visit my home town for the weekend. I popped over to see my parents and him, and realised I am not alone in my suffering. I am, in fact, a normal journalist.

But I’m going to take a stab in the dark and say the cough, sore eyes, blocked nose, is not part of the job. I ought to be prescribing a week in the sun. However, I lack the time or the money.

And this is how we have reached this point: I want to cry in a corner while I blow my nose and cuddle a hottie bottle, but I am ok. Truly, honestly, completely ok.

Mid winter blues, first year of working – the whole no holidays in your first year is dumb, fight the flu, having a small bed room, and having too many hobbies may also be a factor.

But the best thing? The first year of work ends, and in the second year, I get a HOLIDAY! Then I will rub those sweet, sweet two weeks in every persons face who spammed me with tropical pictures this year. Winter ends, summer will be here in five months (but who’s counting?). Hobbies will wait until you have more time. Hottie bottles are easy to fill, and as I have no corners in my room not taken up by stuff, I will limit my crying in self pitty and sickness to my bed, where I will then promptly sleep. Oh yes, and the best one, I will eventually stop being sick.

So you see, it all gets better. It’s just dumb right this very moment, and I want sleep, and food, and sun, and to horse ride and snow board, and work.

Sometimes, there is simply no other way to cope except to throw ones hands in the air and say “over it, can’t do it. Give up. Ask me how I am in five months.”

Then smile politely and resist the urge to imagine strangle someone who makes life harder.

Then laugh. Laughing is always a good end to every situation.

Tuesday is here with a bang

The great thing about a long weekend is getting to miss Monday. The bad part about a long weekend, is not having Monday.

Mondayitis has now been dumped merrily on Tuesday and my fingers are beginning to protest with the cold and the amount of typing required of them today. It probably doesn’t help that whatever strange virus I have that is making the world spin is most unwelcome but strangely calming as I feel slightly out of it.

While the long weekend was fantastic, I would like another one. Actually, I would have liked the rest of the week to be part of the long weekend. Unlike the council staff, who seem to have copious amounts of time off… or perhaps are only ever away when I need to talk to them, I am back at work, chasing people who are away. Oh, and getting all of yesterday’s work and todays work done, today.

The long weekend was great… other than the fact Alex was sick for most of it and spend the majority of the time complaining and sulking. He managed to get the flu going around my office in the five minutes he was here, I am still yet to get it. In saying that I don’t know if I would prefer it to this weird dizzy thing. Oh yes, and heaven forbid I feed him anything remotely healthy looking, and lemon and honey drinks were apparently slow torture. 

Anyway, today is actually not that bad. I enjoy pottering along, or more working at full speed ahead and then falling into a deep trance like state the moment I reach home. It is somewhat satisfying, and far better than the days my brain takes a non-agreed-upon vacation midday and refuses to function leaving me feeling like I just walked my first marathon.

Never the less, I am having a very good hair day, and my face is slowly coming right after having a major meltdown when I changed to natural makeup. I don’t blame it, I had a minor meltdown when I saw my bank statement.

I’m meant to be saving more money now I have a work car. Then I remembered I have two horses and am eating healthy… and I laughed.

Anyway, I have delicious chocolate tea, curry for lunch, and it’s only 11.14am and I have managed to do a considerable amount of work.

Tuesday, you make a far better Monday.

Never be afraid of a trash can

I have had some interesting advice of late when it comes to my reporting.

“Never be afraid of a rubbish bin”

“The follow up is often better than breaking the story”

“Never be afraid to ask the dumb question, sometimes you get the best quotes”

“This industry is hard, but if you’re competitive and don’t give up, you can do it.”

The first is by far my favorite.

Each year there is this thing that the local polytechnic puts on called a ‘Press Club’ where industry professionals come down to mix and mingle over a lunch with the journalism students, and there is a guest speaker.

Now that I am one of those industry professionals and no longer a student, my fear of chatting to people who are considered ‘someone’ have gone out the window. Of course that is because I no longer desperately need them to notice me to one day get a job, and two because I’ve realised they are normal human beings.

The first piece of advice was from a well-respected investigative reporter for the country’s leading paper. It is perhaps to date one of the strangest conversations I have ever had with a journalist. He also told me that reporters get too precious about things like rummaging around a trash can to find the story. He then told me of a time that a person had left the buildings but “the skip was still there” and he found the piece of evidence needed to produce a very epic story.

While I have no desire to go hunting through the Mayors trash can anytime soon… and I have come to a realisation that I am probably too polite to be an investigative reporter, this piece of advice can be applied to many things.

Don’t get too precious, don’t be afraid to do the things others wont.

Get your hands dirty, get in, do it, and you will be surprised what you find.

Never be afraid of a trash can is now one of my life mottos.

Do not be afraid of the things that look awful. Get over it. And stop thinking about it.

Of course, when telling my mother this, she told me to wear gloved due to the awful diseases in trash cans… fair point. I may carry around latex gloves in my purse if an occasion as such ever does arise.

I need popcorn for council

Council meetings are a good reflection time for me. Mainly because the moment any numbers are mentioned my brain finds some other path to wander down and I soon find myself thinking about goldfish or the way the sun rays irritatingly hits certain peoples heads. They also remind me how resilient my gut can be… mainly the induced hunger by not bringing food in fear of crunching in a quiet room, and forgetting water. There is water cooler water flowing into a plastic cup in a quiet room specific kind of volume that really does make one realise they could probably survive in a desert for at least a day. 

One thing I do like greatly about council meetings is the dry sarcasm which seems to weave its way into heated arguments. These make for great quotes in stories. I’m not sure if it’s just because I’ve been doing the council round for the past 5 months and have a collection of council agendas that I can now understand them with surprising ease. It could also be the staff have now simplified things. Possibly both. But either way as of late, I have been pleasantly surprised by the information I can use for a story from one document. 

Anyway, I should actually get back to focusing on the meeting now, as they have stopped talking about numbers and I can now really get into it. Yes, I do genuinely like council meetings, and I do get quite excited about the stories. 

I know, weird.

But that’s okay. One day I’ll remember to bring popcorn.

I’m a journalist now

Like any job, Friday is always the best day (unless you have to work Saturday, then that just sucks). A break is within your reach and you can nearly taste that sweet, sweet two days of doing whatever the hell you want. 

I’m slowly getting used to the early mornings and have discovered this thing called going to bed early. It’s amazing, you get home, have a shower, get into bed, put your head on the pillow, and you fall into dream land. If you’re me, that dream land is probably a bit wacky and slightly freaky. None-the-less, it is sleep. I’ve never been an early night person, so my partner was quite astounded that I was in bed and ready to go to sleep at 9.30 pm. Admittedly I had been working since 8.20 am and had only stopped at 7.30 pm. Not all in the office, but there is this weird thing that happens to my brain when it has to think for that period of time. It just sort of stops. Abandons me mid thought and my eyes start to close. I think something might be wrong with me. 

Someone asked me last night: “what’s it like to work at a newspaper?” I replied “tiring, stressful, and full on.” On reflection though that wasn’t the complete truth. It’s tiring, stressful, full on, rewarding, exciting, and you have the opportunity to learn about new things every day. You never get the same thing each day, but you still have routine. I get free stuff like event tickets, I have the opportunity to do odd sports, and the list goes on. 

It is early days. And I probably complain more than I do express my gratitude. But I do love my job, or at least I do on Fridays. When we get the final product of all our hard work, when you know the paper is doing well and it’s only going to get better, that makes the whole week worth it. And when I get emails from interview subjects telling me what a great job I did and good luck with my career. That makes me day. 

I’m a journalist, and I love that.