Day from Hell

The day I had today was disgusting.

It all started with an anonymous voicemail from a reader who charged I used the word “attain” incorrectly in place of “obtain” – a “mistake” I make a lot (although she did say she enjoyed my stories). Her charges were bullshit – the two words can be used interchangeably, since they mean the same thing.

Look it up before you call next time, kay?

Little did I know, that was just the beginning of things. My supervisor told me the recently-appointed N.C. Secretary of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention was in town touring the nearby juvenile development (not detention) center. Normally, I’d head out without thinking twice, but I did today just because it’s also Jones Post day for me, which means my e-mail was bombarded with community briefs and photos Jones County residents would want in their weekly insert.

I visited the secretary anyway, knowing it would make me pressed for time in getting the Jones Post done and I’d have to hurry to meet its 2 p.m. deadline.

No worries, though, I got it done after I covered the secretary’s visit. After checking in on some of my favorite convicts (getting their court dates/charges from court clerks), I then began writing the story at approximately 3:30 p.m.

But wait. Turns out plans for Kalista’s babysitter fell through – I had to run her car seat and a bag of goodies down to her daycare so the director, who (thankfully) said she’d watch her while I covered my nighttime story, would have stuff to care for my little girl. I got back to the office at 4:30 p.m.

Hold the phone at 4:50 p.m. The Kinston Department of Public Safety thinks they found the guy responsible for a rash of church break-ins at a Kinston church dating back to November … news that needs the crime reporter’s attention.

After a couple phone calls and scan of the arrested guy‘s criminal background (which was exceptional, let me tell ya), I got that story done about an hour later.

At 5:50 p.m., I resumed work on the secretary’s visit story. Let me tell you: the worst piece I have written since my tenure began at the Free Press last July. I was incredibly rushed, knowing I had to leave by 6:30 to make it to La Grange in time for the community’s recognition of the 2008 citizen of the year.

I was a bit late to that, too, but no worries: dinner lasted until 7:50 p.m. They finally announced the winner, gave him time to speak and I grabbed a couple of quotes from people who knew the guy at 8:25 p.m.

So much for picking Kalista up at the day care director’s place – a good 25 minutes from La Grange – at 8:30 p.m.

Poor Kalista. She got to bed at 9:40 p.m. Me? Was my day done? Think again – I had to hurriedly write the La Grange story by 10 p.m., when I told my boss I’d have it to him. I didn’t get it done until 10:15.

What can I do?

Also during my day from Hell, I learned that I would be the one heading to Snow Hill to cover a town council meeting at 10 a.m. What’s the problem in this? Snow Hill’s a good 40 minutes from Kinston – which translates to Kalista getting up about an hour early after she went to sleep an hour late.

On top of that, Kalista’s mother attempted briefly to start a battle via text message while I was at my meeting – looks like my three-day forecast regarding her is “dramatic with a chance of shenanigans.” Great, just what I need on a day like this. Does she expect me to work with her when she can’t do as little as get her life together and stop committing felonies?

As for my job, look – I know I’m good at what I do. I’m honestly flattered my bosses look to me to cover critical matters even if they are not within my beat. But I’m also a single parent who has absolutely zero family members around to assist with childcare. And even if they were around, I’m still not a fan of Kalista being out so late.

Something’s gotta give – looks like meeting time with my boss tomorrow.

Here’s the predicament I’m faced with when the paper’s got me running ragged: they want more enterprise stories, but those take time. Time to research. Time to meet community members who may or may not want to talk to you – you may knock on five doors to get eight inches of print. That takes time.

But enterprise stories, when done well, are award-winners and career-advancers. I wanna do them.

Here is what I propose: we stop covering stupid shit in the Free Press. Stupid shit that no one cares about. Not every agenda item from a board or council meeting warrants a story. We need to pick and choose what we’re writing about so the burden isn’t on one person, who seems to always be me.

Am I bitching? Oh yeah. Do you care about what I’m saying? Maybe, if you’re my mom.

Okay, I’ll stop now.

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