Newsperson syndrome: It’s a deadline, not a disorder
Do you know a reporter personally? Do they seem a little off to you in social situations or conversations? Are they bad at planning things in advance? Do they not react to positive news the same way you do?
Don’t worry, the next line is not, “Ask your doctor if…” Instead, I’m here to clear the air and speak on behalf of reporters, editors, and anyone involved in the news business to explain why they are the way they are.
When you work in news, you see the world differently.
Everything is ruled by the almighty deadline. Forget editors, publishers, CEOs, shareholders, or presidents. In the news world, all bow before the deadline.
This warps the nature of the job in a number of ways, both for better and worse. For example, where many jobs allow workers to take off major holidays, which actually shorten the workweek, in news, a day off merely compresses the week, giving you one day less to do what must be done before the deadline.
In that way, the deadline is pretty bad.
But in other ways, it can be great. If everything needed for a paper is done by Thursday, for example, there is little to do on Friday. In this case, the deadline becomes a friend by making a 9-5 Monday through Friday workweek not always necessary.
Deadlines also change the way you think. I’ve asked a number of people in news about this next point, and their agreement has helped to reassure me I’m not crazy. Everyone has felt that figurative “clock” in their head, but people in news have theirs set to a completely different time zone.
When I worked at a daily paper, we were always planning for the next day’s edition, so I would be thinking 24 hours in advance. Tuesday became Wednesday and Thursday became Friday. That may have helped me in my classes, as I seemed to have essays and projects done before they were due.
Now with the Sun Day, I think a whole week in advance. It can really throw me off sometimes and make for some embarrassing situations when talking with other people.
One of the strangest things I’ve found about working in news is that it makes you wish for really odd things, because again that almighty deadline is your priority. Forget what Jiminy Cricket said about wishing upon a star; he would probably be appalled if he knew what most reporters wished for.
A news story is like a new car and its subject is like the dealership. The further you take the story away from its subject, or the more time that passes between the incident occurring and the story being published, the lower its value.
So reporters are caught between what they, as normal citizens, want and what is best for their story. For example, the recent drought that hit the Midwest has been terrible, and, like any sane person, I want to see it end as soon as possible.
But then there’s the reporter in me. I was working on a story about the drought and how it affects farmers, and for it to have been most relevant, the drought needed to keep on going, at least until the print date.
I think fantasy football enthusiasts understand this type of conflicting hope as well. I’ve found myself torn between wanting the Bears to win their game one week, but also hoping a wide receiver they are playing against that week has a big game so he earns my team a lot of points.
Of course, the normal, sane side of me wins out over the reporter side of me. Stories can be changed if there is sufficient time to do so or can be followed up on later. So I, like everyone else, let out a sigh of relief when I saw those big storm clouds finally give us some rain this weekend.
So if you know a reporter and wonder why they get tied up on dates, seem grumpy on holidays, or maybe even groan when they hear good news, just know that it’s not a disorder, it’s a deadline.