The No- Nonsense Newsroom

July 17, 2014


Here’s my latest article from Gulf Coast Newspapers . . .

photo by: Cliff McCcollum

APA Awards presented to Gulf Coast Newspapers:  Islander Editor John Mullen, Lifestyles Editor Jill Clair Gentry, Sports Writer Tony Whitehead and columnist Leslie Anne Harrison pose with their 2013 APA Awards, some of the 10 won by the GCN Staff this year. Not pictured: Photographer Capt. Mark Robinson and former senior editor William Moore.

The No-Nonsense Newsroom

I had only been writing for Gulf Coast Newspapers for a year when one of my articles was nominated for an Alabama Press Association award. I had absolutely no idea what that meant, but soon learned it was a pretty big deal. Months passed, and lo and behold, I won second place in the humor category.

The first place winner was a guy in Prattville who wrote a story about duct tape. Well, we all know duct tape is funny, so I felt pretty fortunate to have landed in the second spot.

My unfamiliarity with the newspaper industry was understandable, considering I had never darkened the doors of the newsroom. My articles are emailed from the comfort of my home, directly to the editor. (who I then accuse of chopping it into bits  — this part will be cut for sure).

Unfamiliar or not, I was sure the rough, smoky newsroom full of clacking typewriters, screaming editors and fedora wearing reporters was long gone. Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy aren’t slamming doors anymore and Clark Kent doesn’t save ace reporter Lois Lane from bank robbers.

Hot leads for breaking news stories these days are texted, not phoned-in, to the modern news office.

But since I had become an award-winning columnist, my contemporaries were ready to roll out the red carpet and let me become an official part of the industry. Along with the other writers who won awards in the sports, photography and features sections, we were invited to a luncheon where we would be honored.

Gulf Coast Newspapers has become one of the few newspapers to actually grow in readership during the last year, so I felt certain the ceremony would be an important occasion.

My children had both received plaques and trophies for some of their recent end-of –the-year school activities, and they asked what my award would look like. Although my award of choice is a tiara, I figured I would receive a shiny plaque, which would look good on the mantel.

On the day of the ceremony, I chose my outfit carefully and thought about what would be served. Since the luncheon was at the newspaper’s office, it would have to be a catered affair, probably a chicken dish or tiny sandwiches with an array of salads. I adore tiny sandwiches, so that’s what I was hoping for. I figured they must have a large conference table to hold everyone, or perhaps they would set up tables topped with summer floral arrangements. Either way, it would be exciting.

The ceremony had started when I slipped in the door. The publisher was just getting to my category, and asked me to step forward to receive the award . . . that had been printed on the office copy machine. The paper was handed to me over a plastic folding table that held boxes of pizza. Two liter Coca-Colas and red Solo cups were mixed among stacks of napkins that said, “Dominos.”

I can personally report to you that my preconceived notions of the olden days, rough-style newsroom isn’t so far removed from the modern-day reality after all. The newspaper business may have gone high-tech, but the no-nonsense side of the industry is alive and well.  These people concentrate on news — not floral arrangements.

After a brief lunch, everyone scurried back to their desks. No time to chit-chat with some woman who had coordinated her outfit to match the newspaper’s logo. There were serious stories to write. Research to be done. Pizza boxes to carry to the dumpster (which I didn’t mind doing at all).

Then, I had to hurry home to decoupage my ink-jet award onto a board and make it into a plaque. A homemade plaque I will always cherish.


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