The Ticking Clock in the Newsroom

By Ahmet Abdulaziz………

I remember, when I was in middle school, once my father explained to me how  a newspaper gets published.

In brackets I must say that I am referring to late 1960s period. So what I still remember is that he told me that when the Editor of a newspaper starts a new day, he finds the whole 32 or more pages of the newspaper, in front of him, like hungry children, asking him to fill their stomachs. This is the challenge that every newspaper editor faces every day. He does have to meet the time schedule, to fill the whole of the newspaper. Indeed this is not something easy. Rather it is a very difficult job, done under stress.

Later on as years passed by, I happened to be attached to a couple of newspapers as a freelance journalist, for over ten years, and evidenced all that my father had told me years earlier. Whenever, I visited a newspaper office at midday, I always found the staff in a relaxed mood. But as the time passed by, their speed and stress used to increase.

There were no computers in those days, and everything had to be done manually. So they all had had to run fast to meet the deadline. The deadline for the newspaper reports used to be 8pm in those days. I remember there had been a long  table in middle of the office, with a big clock on the wall, showing the time in reverse, so every reporter would  know exactly how much time there was left to meet the deadline, before which he  had been supposed to submit his story.

Not just only the reporters, the proof-readers, hurriedly completing their repeated revisions of the news drafts, the photographs, rushing to develop the films and to print out the photos, the press staff, running around to make molds of the photos and news, placing the alphabets in reverse and reading  and correcting them again and again, etc etc. The newsroom used to exhibit a scene of a unique state of both order and disorder.

The editor of the newspaper on the other hand, used to be rushing through the headlines. Drafting, discarding and redrafting the headlines, repeatedly used to keep the editor busy in the last hour.

And then all of a sudden, the whole environment of the room used to calm down, a little later when the clock on the wall showing minus 10 or 15. The last moment adjustments used to continue for a few more minutes, and then the curtain used to be drawn.

The editor used to close his eyes  and must have said to himself, “job well done, one more time”.

I am narrating all this, just because due to some personal reasons I could not submit MY WINDOW in time to Chris. He did point out that to me, but I had told him not to worry. But indeed, I would well understand, what he would have been feeling inside himself, as the clock on the newspaper wall would go on ticking, second by second, increasing tension. But I was confident that I would be able to meet the deadline.

The clock on the wall just started showing time in minus, and I just received the call from Chris, asking for the article for the last time.  I understand that it would be the last call for me, but I am happy that I am used to working under pressure. Rather at times, I come out with my best, when under pressure, chasing the time schedule.

Maybe this is what I am used to.  In the field of journalism I run fast, because this is what I must do, but in real life I am a slow runner.