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Expectations satisfied, defied, clarified
May 07, 2008 | 257 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Before you read this any further, stop and look at the top of this Web page and read the masthead. It’s that part at the top with the name of the newspaper. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Now, tell me what the name is. If you’re like most people, your reply is “Sparks Tribune.” What you probably missed was the word “Daily” in small print right above “Sparks Tribune” in big letters.

A lot of people miss that detail, and I have come to expect that. A lot of people who are unfamiliar with the paper, and even a few who are familiar with it, ask me if we’re a daily publication. Relative to the paper’s 100-year history, the “daily” part is recent, though that change was made more than 20 years ago. The reason I have come to expect that question is that I have come to understand that this paper’s presence in the community has diminished greatly from what it once was, for what reason I have not yet figured out.

Despite this, as the editor I have certain expectations of people who submit information to the paper for possible publication — particularly people who claim to be public relations professionals. I expect that people who want me to print their information would find out if my paper is daily or weekly and I would expect them to make their submissions accordingly. Something many people might not know is that even though we’re a daily newspaper, we do our best to plan our news coverage in advance. Plans are always subject to change, of course, but “daily” doesn’t mean we’ll stop on a dime and change our day’s plan for just anything.

Case in point: This week I received an e-mail from someone promoting a one-night-only art exhibit at the University of Nevada, Reno. As I read the e-mail it sounded like a good story idea, until I realized the event was that very night. The story idea was good, but not good enough to drop our plans, throw our day into disarray and run over to cover it. There may have been a valid reason for the lateness of the notification, but I expect that it was just plain carelessness. Anyone who expects a newspaper or TV station or magazine to send a reporter to cover an event with just a few hours notice better have the story of a lifetime; otherwise, that person can expect the information to be tossed in the circular file.

This is just one of the many ways that you can expect to annoy a newspaper editor. I had a very nice lunch with a woman from a local public relations agency this week and we spent a leisurely hour-plus talking about the relationship between those of us who report the news and those who try to help people or companies pitch their stories to news outlets. Fortunately, this woman, Jennifer Sanzi from Olsen & Associates, is good at her job and has an education in print journalism. She sends me information in advance and in a form that requires minimal editing: very few typos, adheres to newspaper writing style, not full of exclamation points (newsprint does not yell, in case you didn’t know). But there are some other folks who send me information regularly that takes me longer to fix than it would have to find the information myself. Since I often need the information to fill the paper, I am forced to take the time to fix it, but one of these days when I’m in a particularly bad mood, some of those people can expect to receive a pretty snotty e-mail from me about it.

The thing about meeting people’s expectations is that most of the time it is just a matter of common sense. If you want to make a newspaper editor happy so they will print your information, take five minutes and look at that newspaper and try to make your piece match what you see. Taking five minutes to think about something will help in a lot of areas of life. Not only might it help you to meet or exceed someone else’s expectations, it might inspire others to do the same for you.

Sometimes, it takes no effort at all to exceed someone’s expectations, which is nice but it still mystifies me when something I consider a no-brainer is a big deal to someone else. Case in point: For the past couple of weeks I have been dating a woman (yes, thank you for the applause) who works as a nurse’s assistant at one of our local hospitals. She’s incredibly sweet and we have a good time going out and she even came to have lunch with me at work one day. So, on a day when I wasn’t working and she was I offered to come have lunch with her.

Having lunch with a significant other or potential significant other is by no means a new concept for me. Before my marriagectomy, it was a fairly common practice for The Roommate and I to do that. So, when my current date came to have lunch with me, I took it as a good sign but it didn’t seem like an out-of-the-ordinary thing to do. (Let’s hope she doesn’t read this and decide she’s never meeting me for lunch again, because I truly appreciate it.)

A few days later when I went to meet her for lunch, however, she expressed such gratitude that it made me feel like I shattered all her expectations in the most wonderful way possible. I almost didn’t want to tell her that it is an expectation I place on myself to do nice things for people, particularly if we’re “dating.” Helping someone escape work for a little while with a little lunch in the park seems like an easy way to do something nice. Perhaps it was the rush of fresh air doing strange things to her brain when normally she eats her lunch inside the hospital cafeteria. I can see how going outside when you’re not used to it could cause unexpected euphoria. In all seriousness, it made me a little sad to think that maybe no one had ever cared enough to drive over on a lunch hour and do something so simple to make someone so nice so happy.

You can be happy or sad, laugh or cry when something happens that you least expect. When I was mowing my jungle of a lawn earlier this week the last thing I expected was to see my dog Lucy rolling around in the freshly cut grass. On a normal day, Lucy is half white and half brown, but after a good roll in the chlorophyll she is half green and half brown. When I told her to stop, she sat up with a befuddled look that said, “But, dad, I was playing leprechaun!” At the time I was irritated, but the postscript to this story made it all worthwhile. Later that night The Roommate and I were having a difference of opinion on a guy she had dated — the difference being she liked him and I didn’t. Lucy doesn’t like strangers in her house and will spend a guest’s entire visit barking, but according to The Roommate, Lucy had learned to like this guy about whom we were debating. My response was, “Oh, the green dog likes him. That’s a ringing endorsement.” The subsequent 10 minutes of laughter effectively ended the debate.

Finally, the Tribune got a surprise this week when managing editor Janine Kearney, a mainstay in the newsroom for the past 10 years, tendered her resignation this week. When someone is around for that long, you expect they’ll never leave. But she is leaving to pursue a larger passion: She will be teaching religion and doing youth ministry at Bishop Manogue High School. It means she will be embarking on new and exciting territory, and for that I am very excited and happy for her. It also means uncharted territory for me, since she has been an invaluable source of knowledge about the area for me in my first year here. I am quite sure neither of us knows what to expect.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, my date is expecting me.

Nathan Orme is the editor of the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at norme@dailysparkstribune.com.
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