It will probably stand as the last of my firsts for at least a little while. After four years (off and on) of doing just about every other editing job at the paper, last night I sat at the desk reserved for the Page 1 editor. For the next seven hours, I would be writing the headlines that first hit peoples’ eyes the next day, the ones that they would glance at on the newsstand as they make their decision whether or not to buy it. It’s a very important job, and I’m happy to say I don’t think I screwed it up too much.
As the size of newspapers and their staffs shrink, the prestige of various jobs has diminished somewhat with it. Where a few years ago you had a staff of three working under you, now it’s the size of the entire desk working on the A section on the weekend. And their workload has increased as well. The Page 1 editor used to spend the whole shift concentrated on a single page (and not even all of it). Now they work on A2, A3 and A4.
In my case, it wasn’t so much work. A4 turned into a city news page, A3 had been mostly done in advance, and A2 had the Monday Calendar and Bluffer’s Guide, both of which were written by me (and therefore neither needed any editing, right?).
The other thing to keep in mind about this job is that there’s no real layout involved. Page 1 isn’t laid out, it’s designed by a professional page designer, who tweaks tracking and leading to make sure everything looks perfect. After a few hours, the Page 1 editor gets a page with photos and a bunch of dummy type to be filled out.
Since this was a Sunday, news was kind of light, even with the deaths of two Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan and the deportation of Karlheinz Schreiber. It was quite late in the evening before the subject of the main photo was decided on (the calls for what go on Page 1 are the responsibility of the Assistant Managing Editor and the Night Editor, both of whom are usually managers). Other candidates included the Highland Games in the West Island, flooded basements in N.D.G., Schreiber being deported, or something sports-related. My passing thought about taking a picture from the water gun battle on the Plains of Abraham was nixed mainly due to the fact that we had dead soldiers on the page (juxtaposition is everything). Besides, it was a Reuters photo and we had plenty of stuff from our staff photographers. So an Osheaga photo (the second time in two days that Osheaga has been the main art on the front page), but with a playful weather element, became the centrepiece, and the inspiration for my pick of quote of the day.
So yeah, Mom, go ahead and save that page. The rest of you, go read the Bluffer’s Guide, which is on the subject of the vicious lies being told about our health care system south of the border.
Dang — I want your resources. When I’m the A1 guy on the weekend I also have to do the Canada and World sections and a handful of front-end pages. And we don’t have graphics people on the weekend. Sometimes I even get to be the guy who answers the phones….
The soldier’s pic right there is a guy from the Lower North Shore. Everyone here is sad to hear one of “ours” died in Afghanistan. Seeing his pic there, looking so young and innocent, as a dead soldier, really sucks. But apart from that, your page looks nice!
The page is already saved. But you have stuff on two pages so I have to get another paper if I want to see both sides.
Why does the Bluffer’s Guide read “By Compiled by Steve Faguy” – an error, or just the weird way it’s supposed to be written?
The website is programmed to add the word “by” before the byline. In cases like this that leads to unfortunate duplication.
Quick question like that: Why the last one, for a while? Did you get a new assignment, is it your vacations?
Perhaps I wasn’t clear: Since I’ve done everything else – there’s not much I can experience for the first time anymore.
I thought it was your last “first”, as in first page. Comme la “Une” en Français.
It was my last first of first lasts in first, lastly. Clearer?
Yeah, I guess. Pretty succinct.
It’s a trait of character for copy editors to play with words anyway :D
Very nice. My feverish brain insisted that “Iran Can’t Stop the Party” and I was confused for a moment. When I saw your art was Osheaga I scrolled back up and all was made clear. Guess I shouldn’t read when I’m sick.
Thanks for linking to the Bluffer’s Guide. For some reason, I could not find it on the Gazette’s website and I wanted to send it to some of my American friends who wanted to find out more. Debate has been raging in the States and I found your Bluffer’s Guide to be clear and succint and I know it will be of interest to them.
We recently stopped getting the Gazette because the carrier refused to put it in our mailbox and instead he would leave it on our stairs. When it rains, the paper gets ruined. We’ve canceled, but once in a while we still get the paper. I really like the Bluffer’s guide and the tone. I did not notice it was written by you, but now reading it again I feel your style.
The Bluffer’s Guide doesn’t have a regular author, and tends to bounce around between a few people, though I’ll be doing it for the next few weeks.
I got to sit in that chair only once, on a Saturday night for Sunday’s edition. There’s probably a copy of that newspaper somewhere at my parents’ house. Despite the page having been designed by someone else, it remains something special being my lone Montreal Gazette front page.