Friday morning started with another meeting in Kurt’s office. The morning’s paper lay folded-up on his desk, untouched and unopened. We all knew what was in it.
“Normally I’d be disappointed about only having a follow-up to run on a Friday,” he said, pausing momentarily to take a sip of coffee. “But even a hot scoop probably would have been bumped to the second page by yesterday’s news dump.”
Ash shrugged. She’d done something to her glamour charm that had changed her hair color to strawberry blonde, and I was resisting the urge to stare at her in search of other changes. “That’s Fridays for you.”
Kurt nodded. “So it is. I wouldn’t be surprised if you find people suddenly a hell of a lot more talkative today.”
“American Cargo Ship Sunk Near Singapore” was the top headline of Wednesday’s front page. The five column banner easily overshadowed any and all of the stories below-the-fold, including the one tucked away in the lower right corner, under the headline, “Parahumans Targeted by No Fly List”.
I tried not to feel bitter about being crowded out by a story off the wire. I’d set out with the goal of just breaking the story, and had ended up with a front page headline. A single column, below-the-fold headline, but still a front page headline. That had to count for something.
With Friday’s traffic delay still fresh in my mind, I got up and drove downtown almost an hour early and camped out in the lobby of the Wexler Building so I could ambush Kurt as he came in. I used the time spent waiting to finish compiling my notes.
Kurt saw me before I saw him – I had my head down in my laptop, confident that I’d be able to smell him the moment he stepped in the building. It hadn’t quite occurred to me that what I considered Kurt’s scent was mostly the smell of his coffee.
In journalism, an editor isn’t just someone who corrects spelling and grammar. Those people still exist, of course, but they’re referred to as copy editors, to distinguish them from the much more powerful section editors. If the newsroom is an orchestra, then editors are the conductors. They decide what gets reported, who does the reporting, and where and when it goes in the newspaper. Collectively, these decisions are called the budget. To extend the musical metaphor further, the budget is the sheet music.
Understanding this is the key to understanding the complicated relationship between editors and journalists. To a journalist, the editor is both supervisor and supporter. They are the source of assignments, deadlines, and criticism, but they are also an advocate, mentor, and collaborator. Your editor can be your best friend, your worst enemy, or both in equal measure.
Kurt Holmes had been my editor for more than a year now, and I still wasn’t sure where to place him.