Porter: The lifestyle of newspapers
I talked to my friend and mentor Mike Carroll the other day. Mike’s a recently retired judge in my hometown, so I called him to see if he would marry Jennie and me this summer. That’s a subtle way to announce our engagement, isn’t it?
Anyway, he said he would. Then we got to talking about his retirement and the writing life. Prior to becoming a judge, Mike would sometimes write guest columns for the newspaper. He’s eloquent, funny and intelligent – you know, all the things I’m not.
He wrote a humorous piece about how you think you’re going to have all kinds of time when you retire, but you end up feeling like you don’t have enough time. And how golf is more fun when you’re sneaking away from work for it.
I don’t play golf, and I can never retire, so the whole column was sort of lost on me. But it got me to thinking about my own time management, which really is malfeasance of the highest order.
I don’t really manage time; it manages me. If the printer didn’t have a schedule, the newspaper would never get done. I need the deadline pressure to motivate myself. I can go all week wondering what I’m going to write about, but I don’t have a clue till I sit down in the chair with 20 minutes left to do it in.
While my system, if you can call it that, is not perfect and not for everybody, it works for me. My mornings are spent in slumber, while my messages pile up. That allows me to deal with messages as a group rather than one at a time as they come in. Afternoons are spent gathering materials such as advertising and news stories. Evenings often are spent attending events and meetings. Late evenings are spent organizing information and taking a little “me time.” With the Internet, I can catch up on TV shows and the news on my time.
Could I do everything in a standard 8-hour workday? Yes. But that would resemble work. It would require discipline and conformity, two things I loathe. So, this disjointed time allocation would be a perfect job for me if I were to call it a job. The newspaper isn’t a job, though. It’s a lifestyle.
I can’t imagine ever retiring. What would I do then? The last editor, Harrison, was 72 when he hung up the title, but every day, you can go by the old newspaper office and you’ll find him there working on something. That’s where I’ll be 20 some years from now.
I’m really the luckiest guy I know. The newspaper is my retirement plan. And in June, I’ll be even luckier because I will marry my best friend – if she doesn’t change her mind between now and then.
• David Porter can be reached at email@example.com.