#790: In the Newsroom

May 15th, 2017

I’m typing now. Everyone is.

A sales guy in the corner is chattering away. Two of the production guys were hushed-toning it about a color separation detail, but that got resolved and they walked away from each other.

Now it’s just you, me and the clicking and clacking of a dozen keyboards.

We yell and joke a lot of the time in the newsroom. We take calls and do interviews and swear more often than other professions do, I’m told. But there are moments of overlapped deadline when the words are thin in the air and the sound of typing fill a fluorescent-lit open office.

Those are the moments I like best.

Like a lot of journalists, I have a combination urge of laughter and slapping when someone introduces themselves as a writer. Ninety-nine times out of 99, they’re just the creators of very large Word documents and pretentious cocktail-party chatter. They’re about as much writers as a karaoke habit makes someone a musician.

Maybe what they’re creating is brilliant. Maybe their words are destined to change the world, make a strong man weep and spread peace, love and puppy dogs to encircle the earth. But they’ll never be writers the way I consider the term.

But even if what the cocktail-party conversationalists produce is better than anything I’ll ever think of in my inky existence, writing and being a writer will always to me be the difference between cooking and being a cook. You don’t earn the title until it’s your job.

Until you know a room of clicking and clacking and agony.

The agony comes from the not-right word. It comes from the impending deadline or the thoughts that come faster and more frantic than your bungling, oafish fingers can translate. It comes from knowing your life would be better if you gave up what you’re doing, but knowing in your heart you have no more choice in your profession than you have in your blood type.

You can’t be a writer without knowing a room full of clicking keyboards.

If someone asks what today’s story was about, tell them it’s about a keyboard and about the 26 letters, 10 digits and dozen-ish weirdo punctuations that lets people break their hearts to bring you a world.

And then tell them it’s about a room of those, about a room of people clicking and clacking alone together in pursuit of the daily news.

More magic from my job

And a woman who made magic her job

And, just for a change, two really weird Chicago movies

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You are currently reading #790: In the Newsroom by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

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