During my fifth year of college … yeah, I attended one of those state schools that have a four-year graduation rate of a whopping 15 percent, so your point is?
Anyway, during my fifth year of college, I was editor in chief … yeah, that was the official title: Editor in chief. Sort of inflated, but I’ve always thought it was cool and important sounding. (One of my managing editors, by the way, was in his sixth or seventh year of college.)
Anyway, during my fifth year of college, I was editor in chief of the student newspaper. I was made for that job. If you can call it a “job.” I was paid a stipend of next to nothing. But I guess I was paid so it qualifies.
We published twice a week, and I remember many a Sunday and Wednesday nights when I would sit in front of a computer terminal to edit copy and puzzle together the edition’s design. To be clear, I didn’t do any of it by myself. The office was abuzz with people who designed ads, wrote headlines, developed photos and pasted together bits and pieces of news to make a newspaper.
On the way to our basement office, I would often stop at the deli and get a three-cheese bagel and a bag of Doritos to munch while editing. Despite my deplorable meal choices, I lost weight that year because I would forget to eat. I was engrossed in my work, and time meant nothing on those nights. We were there until the bitter end and we had the “we’ll sleep when we’re dead” attitude of a good group of 20somethings no matter how long it took so it didn’t really pay to watch the clock.
I was underpaid, and we worked hard, but I felt like I was doing valuable work. We were putting out the news. We were telling important stories.
This is how I judge a good day’s work, even today. Watching the clock or checking off an endless to-do list of meaningless tasks or sitting in tedious meetings or biting my lip during noisy conference calls is not important work. Telling important stories is valuable work and it is one of the reasons I love to write this blog.
Is my interview posted a couple of days ago with an 8-year-old who colors cats “important”?
Sure it is. It’s important to him. It’s important to me. It made some readers laugh. And it’s forever captured on the internet (which sounds eerily self-important like “editor in chief” but so be it). Roughly once a week, I nail it with a post like that. I capture someone’s interesting story.
And that’s valuable.