The history of us
As someone who experiences anxiety with a physical regularity that is normally reserved for breathing and blinking, I don’t sleep much on Tuesdays. Producing an issue of the Sentry can keep us in the office as late as 4 a.m., but even after that, words keeps me wired. The questions begin within minutes of sending the paper to the printer: Did I proof that cutline? Did the copy editors see the cover? Did we change that byline from “Human Person” to the name of the employee who actually wrote the article? (No. No we didn’t.)
But by the time I get to work on Wednesday, it’s time to begin assembling the next issue—there are new goals to set, new articles to edit, new deadlines to meet. And for that reason, working at a newspaper is maybe the best way I’ve found to get the hell over myself.
Here, we don’t have time to be precious about our first drafts, to hold them close until we’re comfortable enough with their structures to release them into the world. If we don’t make deadline, we don’t get paid. We have to do our best to write right the first time around, and we have to do it quickly.
That’s not to say I’ve been absolved of all (or any) regrets. Some of my worst writing has been immortalized in 1,500 printed copies—and I’m not reflecting the first articles I had published as a staff writer two years ago. I’ve sent awful, sentimental lines to the printer as recently as this month, and if I’d spent even one extra day with those drafts before publication, I probably would have known what desperately needed to be edited out.
But we publish a new issue every week, and because timeliness is the currency of our job, a lot of what we do feels fleeting, temporary. The most recent edition gets delivered from our plant in Broomfield; our distributor spends most of Wednesday replacing the old with the new; the news cycle keeps churning forward, and aged stories are left behind in recycling bins. If I’m not proud of an article I wrote, I look forward to that last step as a scheduled catharsis.
But we also have physical archives of every word the Sentry (and the Advocate) has published over the last 50 years. Future newsroom employees will struggle to read the words we’re writing now on crumbling yellowed newsprint; they will think the typefaces are dated, and they’ll laugh at our naivety because they know exactly how our current political anxieties will be resolved (just like we laughed when we discovered our predecessors referred to the 2008 presidential campaign as “the scariest election ever”).
Our seemingly temporary efforts will be part of the university’s record for as long as CU Denver exists, and we have to balance the weight of that reality against needing to produce 16 pages of content every seven days. Though this job is challenging in many ways, perhaps that balance is the most difficult skill we practice: we have to let go of last week, which featured just one issue of many, while also moving into the next, determined to earn our space among the archives.