Growing up, I heard from almost everyone — parents, teachers, mentors and editors — that when you are young, you have to put in your time.
For assistants, that could mean running to get coffee or dry cleaning. In newspaper journalism, it usually means working nights, weekends and holidays. For reporters, it also could mean taking on that beat (read: subject) that you don’t particularly enjoy but will teach you a lot about being a good journalist. It is our industry’s way of climbing the ladder.
There are a few golden tickets for this job and they are few. After putting some time in, I have finally snatched one.
Night desk had become my life before I got out into the real working world. I put in a few nights a week at my college’s newspaper as a copy editor, in addition to internships, classes and other activities if I had time. This lead me to a job as a copy editor at age 22. To be called an editor at a young age is an accomplishment, but night desk is the training for future managing editors and beyond. On Saturday nights, I was working away on the big Sunday edition. I spent a few holidays with my second family, tapping away at my keyboard. I put in my time.
And now, I am a multi-platform news journalist in the features department. I work a “normal” shift now, have weekends and some holidays off, more time to see friends and family and get to participate on a staff that I had my eye on for awhile. I also will get the opportunity to write more, something I am looking forward to doing.
This is all bittersweet, though, as night desk is something special. It is like a club: We build a special camaraderie around grammar, journalism and the readers. When the rest of the office is quiet and dark, you can hear us laughing about something a politician said or rushing to get a live update online about a house fire. When everyone is sleeping, we venture out in the pitch black night for a drink and some friendship after the work has been done for the night.
This is what I give up but won’t forget. I am carrying all I have learned over to the features staff. And I know that I still have a lot of time left to put in — I’m only 26. That corner office looks nice.