HOMETOWN ¶ Two Years in the Life of a Small Town Grown Large

Professionals at Work

By Heather Elizabeth Peterson

Composed in June 1981

Readers of The Review are frequently amazed at how the staff of the school newspaper can monthly publish a paper which contains only 127 grammatical errors, 56 punctuation mistakes, 38 errata, and 16 outright lies. For the edification of our readers – and for my A in Journalism – this article will take a behind-the-scenes look at the production of The Review.

The scene is a Roosevelt [High School] classroom. Most of the class are reading newspapers, doing homework, etc. A chess match in the front has been going on for three days. In the back, the editors are in a frantic huddle.

A features editor is telling a front-page editor: "I'll trade you a features article and an article I got from editorials if you'll give me the article on the effect of promiscuous sexual activity on students' SAT scores."

"Never," says the front-page editor. "The last time I made a trade like that, I ended up with an editorial suggestion that the public school system be converted into military schools."

The bargaining is interrupted by one of the paper's sponsors. "Today is Friday," he points out for those who haven't gotten hold of one of the newspapers circulating the room, "and, since we are already three months past this issue's deadline, it is important that The Review go to press today."

The sponsor's speech has a stirring effect on the class: about half the students remember that they have tests today that they haven't studied for.

One of the editors-in-chief, who spends her spare time laying out the pages and collecting ads, approaches the features editor. "How are you lined up in features?"

"Well, I have a 20-inch article that was due last month, photos for an eight-inch article that nobody's writing, and a 12-inch article I'm writing that should be ready some time next week."

"Great; you're ahead of the other pages."

The features editor turns to her co-editor, who is typing his article as he thinks it up. "Say, where's what's-her-name? You know, the one who wrote an article last October? I need an article counted."

"Same place the whole features section has been for the past eight months – working on the lit mag. How does this sound?"

"Let me read it." The features editor yanks the paper out of the typewriter and glances over it, crossing out paragraphs as she goes. When she finishes, only the first sentence is left. "Sounds good," she says. "You just need a little work on it."

A sports editor appears. "Hey, when are you going to be finished with that typewriter? We've got six articles that need to be typed."

"You'll get your turn," the co-editor replies. "Just put your name at the bottom of that list; you should be able to use the typewriter in a couple of weeks."

An editorials editor approaches the features editor. "Listen, we're a bit short on space. Could you write a letter to the editor condemning one of our editorials?"

"Condemning what? In the last issue you printed editorials against a nuclear holocaust, in favor of better teachers, and praising the professionalism of The Review. Which editorial am I supposed to be against?"

"We've got an editorial this time that claims listening to rock music causes V.D. We'll print your letter along with it."

The bell for second lunch [the middle portion of the period] rings, and everybody except the editors runs out. The features editor sighs with relief. "Good. That means we have the classroom to ourselves for the rest of the period." Suddenly it strikes her, and she pushes her co-editor out of his seat and takes his article out of the typewriter. "You can finish that later. I've got an English paper due next period."

In the distance, one of the editors-in-chief is saying, "I don't care if you didn't see the game. The printer's closes as five o'clock. Write an article about it anyway."

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Creative Commons License: Some Rights ReservedThis text, or a variation on it, was originally published at duskpeterson.com. Copyright © 1981 Heather Elizabeth Peterson. Some rights reserved. The text is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0). You may freely print, post, e-mail, share, or otherwise distribute the text for noncommercial purposes, provided that you include this paragraph. The author's policies on derivative works and fan works are available online (duskpeterson.com/copyright.htm).