Benny and his friend Griffin at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

Monday, February 02, 2009

The depths of despair in Indiana

Work has been a little weird lately, with some strange, random management moves that do little to help morale. But hey, at least I don't work at the South Bend Tribune.

The blog "Ask a Manager" has posted a recent management memo to reporters that nearly stops the heart. Reporters must send a detailed, daily summary of their activities — every phone call, interview, research effort and email discussion — to five editors. That way the editors know every little thing their reporters are doing, which apparently helps them evaluate people's work, plan the paper's content and know "your accomplishments and your struggles."

Let's ignore the massive time suck this would be for reporters, who could be spending that 20-plus minutes (it's really that detailed) actually working on stories. Let's ignore the even bigger time suck for editors, who must wade through a dozen of such summaries a day. I assume all summaries will be forwarded on to the design department, which can develop cute pie charts and bar graphs displaying reporters' activities for everyone's edification.

Perhaps there's a value to this process that I am stubbornly overlooking. Perhaps my editors would be assisted (if not inspired) by such a daily summary from me. So here it is: an open memo to the Internet world about my Monday morning activities. Now go plan your next newspaper issue.


Arrived at nine. Chugged Snapple. Consumed granola bar. Surfed the web and found appalling memo asking for detailed summaries from reporters. Forwarded memo to a dozen friends. Read emails. Flagged two emails I didn't understand and deleted three emails I hoped to ignore. Went into kitchen and told coworker amusing story about my morning bus ride. Returned to desk and hunted for vending machine change. Gave up. Started editing a real estate column. Reporter asked me to post an article on the web. Dug through my files for my two-month-old, hastily scrawled cheat sheet. Tried to read my writing. Decided to wing it. Posted article. Returned to real estate column. Giggled over punchy headline I wrote. Started thinking about article I posted. Should I add a reporter byline? Was the article too small for a byline? My notes were silent on this, or perhaps I just couldn't read them. Dithered some more. All the editors were in a Monday meeting so I had no one to ask. Added byline. Finished editing real estate column. Reporter emailed me and asked why his story now had a byline and requested I take it off. Took byline off. Indulged in self pity. Editors emerged from meeting and I asked about web story bylines. Was told that all stories must have them. Put bylines on seven stories, cursing softly. Attended editorial meeting. Suffered. Went to lunch early. I plan to return from lunch in April 2012.