On August 10, my column moved from Mondays to Wednesday. This afforded me an opportunity to ask for community help on various tasks I do through the year.
I’ve moved. Painlessly, effortlessly, I’ve moved from Monday’s editorial page to Wednesday’s.
Last week, after 18 years of Monday columns, I was informed I would now write a Wednesday column.
I began writing columns after then editor George Arnold liked a couple of letters I had written to him and invited me to work for the News-Times and write a weekly column. I said, “Yes! … but could I work part time?” I still had children at home.
He agreed, then as I started to leave he wondered, “Do you type?”
Yes, I type. It’s a good thing, too, because for several years I keyed in Dear Abbys, horoscopes, community news and society news. Five years later I brought him the newspaper articles I had written as a stringer in Indiana and asked if I could work full time. Arnold promoted me to special sections, where I write articles and lay out the pages. I did not know anything about laying out newspaper pages — but I learned.
If you don’t know what a special section is, check today’s paper for the pages labeled “Back to School.” That’s a special section. It has the El Dorado bus routes, menus, the free lunch parameters, pictures of new teachers, tips for college, tips for parents and the cell phone policies of area schools.
Seems like I always have a special section on the back burner. In November, we plan to do a special section on Veterans Day. I am looking for the personal stories of veterans who served in peacetime or war or police action.
My tasks also include writing an occasional feature or covering a local meeting. Plus, this year, management encouraged us to write a personal blog. Mine is called “Bumbling Thumb.” There, I have uploaded a few pictures of my family and projects along with comments on my life as a mother and grandmother.
The first few years of preparing special sections for publication, I would arrive early and work all day — intensely terrified that I would not finish on time. I got over it. Now only one special section puts me into emergency mode: The annual Union County graduation section with way more pages than the other special sections; pages we fill with information and pictures of all the area graduates. The advertising staff takes care of the personal ads; guidance counselors provide the high school information; colleges and parents provide the scholarship information. They all help, but in the end, I must organize and place it on the pages, with the right schools, names, pictures and headlines without forgetting anyone or misplacing any information or picture.
A few years ago, management put another responsibility on my desk. They decided to expand our school news into a weekly special section with pictures, brief stories and features of local schools and students to accompany the weekly Mini-Page. It proved to be very popular. But, I would never be able to fill the weekly education pages if I did not have parents, teachers and aides taking pictures, writing copy and submitting it at the front desk, via email or snail mail to the News-Times office.
We will begin publishing those pages in September — I am definitely looking for clips and candid or posed photographs from these first few weeks of school. Send them to email@example.com with the subject line titled School News.
The last few years I have been very fortunate to have the journalism teacher at Parkers Chapel High School voluntarily helping out. Stacy Kendrick assigns her students one newspaper column each quarter. She reviews them, returns them for the students to correct and then forwards the better columns for me to choose for our weekly student-written column. In recognition of her work, the Arkansas Press Association named Kendrick as the journalism teacher of the year for Arkansas. She deserved it. Any other teacher who wants to insist their students write and re-write (and re-write yet another time) columns of 500 to 700 words is welcome to submit the best of the edited work or to have journalism students take pictures and report on school events. We don’t have room to publish every picture submitted, but we aim to publish at least one picture of every event.
As I said, I cannot do my job without the cooperation of local educators, parents and grandparents. Don’t be shy, let us know what your students are doing. In this age of digital cameras and e-mail you no longer have to physically deliver pictures to the News-Times office.
Just upload pictures into an e-mail and send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Copy, cut and paste text into the body of the e-mail. As a proud parent and grandparent, I know how you feel about your offspring. My goal is to showcase as many students as possible in the education pages.
So that’s what I do. For today’s new readers, the ones who only purchase the Wednesday paper, it’s good to meet you. Come back next week and let’s visit again.
(Joan Hershberger is a reporter at the News-Times. E-mail her at email@example.com.)