After deadline lethargy


It’s Friday, in that lull that feels almost like a collective sigh that follows deadline. The first papers off the press have been brought up, passed around, and those whose bylines are stamped below the headlines glance over their stories, make sure nothing was missed in the morning’s hurry.

This is the problem with an afternoon paper. The day starts early, and with a frantic pace. We’ve got two hours. Maybe a little more if it’s really important. And it’s only 7 a.m., so congressmen and businessmen and even some police officers are unreachable.

Editors’ tempers run short, computers eternally crash right when it matters most, and yet another voice mail recording irks me.

Some mornings I watch the clock, wait for 8 or 8:30 to come around, when my chance of waking someone up is lower, then start making calls. Mostly its to fire officials, those unfortunate volunteers whose names and home or cell phone numbers ended up in our collective database.

Other mornings its emails I send to chiefs of staff, who I guess have blackberries or iPhones and check their email before they’ve even left their doors.

I had one of those mornings last week, sending out calls and begging for paperwork from attorneys, Pennsylvania Department of Education officials, trying to make them all understand that time wasn’t waiting for me.

And the calls always come back just 10 minutes before deadline, and the story’s nearly written but the call adds so much depth and I try to cut chatty board members off so I have a chance to add their comments.

Just after I told one editor that the official letter wasn’t coming, it arrived, and I raced to add those details as the story bloated and swelled and the clock ticked on past deadline.

Today, though quieter, still has the same effect. When the press roars to life downstairs and someone drops the day’s product on my desk, I become incapable of doing much of anything. Eat a banana, make a much-needed after-deadline bathroom run, flip through the pages.

And it takes effort (or most often a returned phone call from the day before) to wake from my late morning lethargy. I’ve got most of the day still ahead of me, calls to make, words to string together, but I feel like I’ve already done my work for the day.

Fridays seem to be the worst, when I’ve moved ahead to weekend plans and grocery lists and don’t forget to check the weather to know what to pack for the shower mental notes. (Even though I’m working tomorrow morning, so that makes no sense).

I need a really interesting story just about now — that might wake me up.

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