Advances in technology are good, right? They can make life easier and work more efficient and productive.
I’ve been on the city desk for almost a month now. I’m still adjusting to the move from the copy desk, but one of the biggest differences I’ve noticed between the two is the number of distractions over here on the city side.
Now don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of interruptions over at the copy desk – but they mostly came from editors wanting to change the placement of a story or switch out one story for another – no problem. But over here on the city side, they come from all angles: reporters, other editors, other staff, readers, news wires, PR flaks, via phone, texting, e-mail, instant message, pop-ups, television, police scanner, radio and just plain old face-to-face conversation. The chorus of phones ringing in the office makes me feel like I work in a pinball machine. It’s sometimes hard to stay focused.
But the most annoying of all interuptions is the pop-ups. The pop-ups are a service of our new-ish computer program, Unisys, a program much loathed by many in our family of newspapers, though I’m secretly a fan. A window pops up on my screen to alert me every time a wire service releases info that contains words that I’ve pre-selected, stopping me from continuing my work until I’ve closed the window. I’ll admit the service is necessary and actually very useful as I’m notified of breaking news as it happens. But, as technology has no brain matter, the service cannot distinguish between what of that pre-selected info might be useful to me. As I write this, the pop-up has broken through at least 5 times giving me updates on President Bush’s meeting in Canada because the dateline of the story is MONTEBELLO, Quebec – one of my pre-selected words because the city of Montebello is in our coverage area. Ok, now I just got a six and seventh break-through as I’m writing this sentence.
The interruptions are all-consuming but all totally necessary. I especially value the interactions with reporters and other editors right now as I get to know them and the stories they are working on.
And as easy as it would be to go on with the same story lineup we started with at the beginning of the day, life changes – on a minute by minute basis – and I need to be prepared to change course if I’m interrupted because something breaks. If we can take an extra second to make the paper better – I’m up for it everytime. So let the pop-ups continue.