newspapers and libraries*

amy posted this January 26th, 2011 | filed under: discovery, general, inspire me!, moi | no comments »
* nope, not a post about how newpapers are filed in libraries, how newspapers are part of  library collections, nor about libraries in newspaper organizations…

cc licensed flickr photo shared by aplumb

i used to work at the Montreal Gazette. i worked in the newsroom for about 8 years. i started off making photocopies and delivering faxes in my CCCP tshirt (the newsroom manager didn’t worry too much about dresscodes, so long as i was dressed) and ended up compiling the scoreboard pages til the wee hours (while dealing with crank calls from editors phoning me for the cricket score for “team birdy num-num”).
it was a tremendous experience. i worked with many awesome folk, and every day was different because, ya know, that’s what it’s like in the news biz.

  • the 1995 referendum (with a livestream of the newsroom).
  • Princess Di’s death (dump everything planned for the front section and update coverage between editions. at 5pm she had been in an accident, by sports final, she was… dead?).
  • 9/11 (well, that was just crazy. did everything that day including drive a reporter’s car to his house in the plateau because he was en route to NYC with a photog and he would have gotten a ticket outside the old gazoo bldg).

thanks to working in a newsroom, i am also most productive between 10pm and 2am, comfortable with crazy deadlines, and a stickler for the usability-side of the media (note: if the index has an inaccurate page for Ann Landers, your boss will be pissed. and if you mess up the Expos boxscore in the scoreboard page, don’t bother showing up the next day.)
i have a deep affection for the media, and especially newsrooms.
before leaving the Gazette i said that the only job i wanted there was publisher, but it’s hard to get that gig straight from copy clerk. i used to joke that i was going to start a competing newspaper in Montreal and hire away all of the best people from the Gazette. i didn’t want to do this to force the Gazette under, but because competition is healthy, and the Gazette was infinitely better when the Montreal Daily was competing against it for subscriptions. if you’re the only anglo daily in a city, there’s no reason to bring your A game, is there?
BEFORE YOU YELL AT ME… the folks at the Gazette up til now have been trying to bring their A game. but the entire concept of media is all over the place right now and old industries have a hard time adjusting. now i’m not for propping up these industries so that they don’t have to change. screw that. if libraries can move from huge tomes chained to desks to producing open access resources for the world, everyone else can learn a new trick too. but i do think we can’t dismiss the concept of the newspaper simply because “everything is online now”.
good newspapers aggregate and curate information for their local readers. they simplify or enhance, when required. they think about the local population when going through the sked. the go out in the local area and solicit feedback from people. they are the record of a place, a time, a citizenry.
good newspapers and good libraries have a helluva lot in common. i have always thought we should be working together more closely. how can we do this?

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