It's the beginning of a new year. Time to get organized.
Experts say the key to any successful New Year's resolution is to make it manageable. Don't vow to win the Pulitzer Prize this year, they tell us. Just make sure you spell your story subject's name right each time.
OK. I quickly scan the top of my office desk. It looks similar to the rubble strewn across the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan after U.S. bombers complete their sorties. If scoured carefully it might reveal the next Osama bin Laden videotape.
Let's start with my right-hand drawer, where the essential professional tools of a 21st century journalist are kept:
-- A pica pole.
-- Six Bic pens. Two with caps and four without.
-- Several half-filled reporter's notebooks with scribbled notes the author can no longer decipher.
-- A booklet with eight 29-cent stamps.
-- A 2001 Mighty Gulls schedule.
-- Assorted outdated football schedules.
-- A coupon for a free Whopper from the Lake Region Christian School.
-- Notes from a primary election night news interview with Crow Wing County Commissioner Dewey Tautges.
-- Four Minnesota road maps, four Brainerd lakes area maps, one Crow Wing County map and one Brainerd voting precincts map. (What's behind this obsession with maps?)
-- Envelopes and stationary illustrated with a picture of the downtown Dispatch building that was torn down about a decade ago.
Clutter seems to be an integral component to a newsroom's decor.
For several years a former editor at The Dispatch kept in his desk an unopened bottle of whiskey that was given to him by a friend. When he left the paper his desk was cleaned out and a colleague did the right thing. He took the bottle home.
One woman brought boxes of sports yearbooks and magazines to The Dispatch sports department after her husband passed away and she was reluctant to throw them away.
Old, yellowed, copies of The Brainerd Dispatch often find their way to our newsroom after well-intentioned readers finish cleaning out their attics.
newsrooms are magnets for oddball items that no one knows what to do with. Sometimes unsolicited books or promotional gifts of little value come from public relations firms. They're usually raffled off to newsroom staffers who guess a certain number.
Once I threw out some black and white mug shots of local people who had passed along into the great ethereal beyond only to regret it when a scholarship was subsequently named in honor of one of them and we had no picture.
That's always the fear. That as soon as you through out that 20-year-old news clipping file on fluoride, the topic will raise its little head again and you'll be scrambling to remember the details of long-ago controversies
My Rolodex has a phone number of a former Brainerd city official whose been dead for years. I know who his replacement is but I just look the number up under the old name and dial it when necessary.
My files include folders on people who threatened to sue the newspaper and clippings on reports that the KGB once had secret stashes of money and weapons near Brainerd.
Journalists can end up writing about anyone or anything. No matter how obscure the event there's likely to be an anniversary story assigned some day and the longer you've been around the newsroom the more likely it is that you'll get the assignment.
The only items we get rid of now are typewriters, the noisy, clattering machines that once signaled to visitors that they were walking into a bustling newsroom.
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