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Managing money is tough, but time is harder.

MANAGING TIME was the elusive goal.

With a four-person department in an 88,000-circulation, six-day afternoon paper, the challenge was finding that extra two hours every night and eighth day in the week to deal with loose ends.

Jobs One, Two, and Three were the daily editorials. Though other demands intruded we focused early on tomorrow's topics, scanned the paper for immediate issues, and jotted lists of those to consider for later in the week.

Editorial writing was a task shared with two assistant editors, but the editor of the pages wrote more than a dozen pieces a week. A TRS-80 at home was a godsend.

One assistant editor selected syndicated columns, did the quotable quotes column, and made up the editorial page. Another organized the material for the op-ed page, a mountain of letters, and local essays that were both a delight in their rising numbers and a frustration in finding space for them.

A secretary punched thousands of words into the computer system each day, so the op-ed editor could choose, cut, measure, polish, and headline the letters and local columns.

Letters had to be verified. Some cried for written responses or telephone inquiries. Viewpoint columns required mug shots of authors and lots of special attention. Authors called to ask if their essays or letters had arrived. Would they be printed? When? Would we alert them ahead of time?

Interviews with newsmakers seeking editorial board audiences could eat a whole workday out of an election-season week. We came up with a screening system that rarely turned anyone down but didn't give every guest a big audience. If the requester was someone of limited news impact, we'd accept but would have one or two people (usually the editorial page editor and an assistant editor) hear their pitch. But for a person of live news value, we'd summon the full, nine-member board.

Weekly editorial board meetings lasted up to two hours, but choosing the agenda and collating materials to inform the issues took more time than the meetings.

We found subjects for slow-day editorials deep in early-run pages. Longer-term planning focused on familiar pegs on the horizon -- openings and closings of the legislature and the schools, elections every two years, Kamehameha Day, the approach of major anniversaries such as the fiftieth of the Pearl Harbor attack in December 1991 and the hundredth of the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in January 1993. Planning ahead seemed easier than finishing up today.

Time and paper seemed to conspire against finishing the day on schedule. That may be the message. Shaping and showcasing opinion was a never-ending process. The work of the pages defied normal limits of hours and days, sweeping away the neat frames of the calendar.

By comparison, managing money was simple, a basically "done deal" with few options. In the tight-money years, it became even simpler: Buying a new syndicated writer or cartoonist meant dropping one to make room in the budget. Limited travel became even more so.

Against the ever-growing demands on time, the limited choices in budgeting were almost a relief in their clarity.
COPYRIGHT 1993 National Conference of Editorial Writers
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:The Masthead Symposium: Managing Time and Money
Author:Simonds, John E.
Publication:The Masthead
Date:Sep 22, 1993
Previous Article:Get control of your own budget.
Next Article:Planning gives you the upper hand.

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