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It wasn’t all adrenaline and belly fire for me last night. But it turned out to be later, which is why I’m awake and blogging about my night on the wire desk.

9 p.m.-ish: AP NEWS ALERT: President Obama has scheduled a news conference for 9:30 p.m. (CDT), White House not providing details about content.

9:15 p.m.: “Bah crap. I knew it was too quiet on the wire tonight. They must know I’m almost off the clock. Jerks.”

Fast forward to expected start of Obama speech, watching CNN: “We can now confirm that President Obama plans to announce that Osama bin Laden has been killed and the U.S. has his body.”

Me: “Oh god. Oh crap. They do not want me running the wires tonight. Uh oh. I’ve only been doing wires for a couple months. This can’t end well.”

Let’s fast forward past all the eye-rolling each time Obama’s speech is pushed back, past each call about holding all editions until we have the news, and more experienced wire editors offering encouragement and offers to come in and help.

6,000 gigantic gulps later, the adrenaline starts kicking in. “OK I’ve got this. Let’s do this. Actually, hold on a sec. I need another Dr. Pepper.”

$1.25 later, after gulp No. 6,001

“OK now let’s knock this mother out.”

The speech finally starts. Three minutes in, I glance over my shoulder. One of the normal wire rats I told I would be fine is over my shoulder. “O hai. Glad you’re here.”

“We don’t have cable, so I might as well.”

Obama’s speech concludes: “And god bless the United States of America.”

Batteries are re-charged. Let’s sex up some history.

Now we wait to see what the wire gods bestow upon us.

12 slightly usable wire briefs later, “OK. Let’s make lemonade out of these tiny-ass briefs about the speech, Bush’s reaction and this gigantic obit of bin Laden detailing his background.”

“This works here. This answers that other story’s giant gaping logic hole. Ooh. That’s and important guy talking. Let’s add that in.”

“How do I transition from … wait. Got it.”

18-inch story completed in 15-ish minutes.

Now for the big enchilada: The city edition.

“OK, Bloomberg’s got a serviceable version with none of those over-the-top adjectives.”

“This AP version’s got a connection between the raid and a downed helicopter in the same town. That’ll work great here. We’ve got some pretty good quotes from NYT sources. Add those to the soup. State Department’s warning U.S. citizens. Sprinkle that in, too. Washington Post has more details on the attack? Yes please.”

An hour later (90 minutes of overtime in), with the help of my surprise help, I’ve got the skeleton and organs for this larger bin Laden story spliced from at least a dozen wire stories and congressmen’s news releases.

“You mind taking the lead from here? You likely know better where the holes are.”

20 minutes and 15 inches of background and details I missed later, the sausage has been made.

Off to the designer and another pair of eyes.

“OK I’m off to the bar. Who’s coming with me?”

— Update—

And the best compliment comes the next day:

The biggest hesitation I had about my new job was working behind a paywall. In fact, I requested a meeting with the website’s editor during my job interview to talk about it. After a couple months working here, here’s some notes on how it’s affected my online life.

Troubles

• In my previous job and at my campus paper I always wanted to help promote my reporters’ work. Call it my way of showing them I appreciate their work as much as I fantasize they do mine. Because of the paywall, I can’t link to shareworthy stories I look at during my shift. It would be a useless link for most because stories that make print edition require a subscription to read online.
Note: The paper also has some Web-only reporters who cover daily breaking news. Their content is normally free online. Some breaking wire content is also given away. Videos, blogs, graphics and the like are free because they’re considered supplemental to the print edition.

• My other issue is what I like to call “link jealousy.” Back in Lynchburg, if I saw central Virginia Twitterers linking to competitors more than us I got bit frustrated and felt like we were losing out. Now I’m in a situation where seeing links to my own company is extremely rare. It took quite some time for me to adjust to seeing rivals get all the links from the Little Rock Twitter users I follow.

Advantages

• While my eye still twitches when I see rivals’ links posted more often, not being able to link to my office’s work has enticed me to read the rivals’ websites without feeling like I’m being disloyal. I imagine my old habit of refusing to look at rivals’ sites is exclusive to me, but my new situation has broken me out of it and made me more of a consumer and less of a link dumper. Reading rival content leads me to often consuming the same facts more than once and helping me get familiar with my new area quicker. Maybe soon enough I won’t have to hit up Google Maps to check every intersection or search for each North Little Rock alderman’s name every time.

• The increased consumption ties into my top advantage to my new environment: I’m more of an online listener now. Before, I was the one wanting to tell the community what links to consume. Now, I find myself the one weighing which links to look at. It makes for interesting observations from the other side of the glass. I’ve been able to spend more time reading content from Little Rock-area bloggers than I did in Lynchburg. As a result, I give more of a crap about my new online community than I did in my past (at least as far as with people I’ve met less than three times).

In conclusion, while the paywall idea is still odd to me, the lessons I can adapt to my online life are very valuable. It’s good to get in touch with and observe your consumer side.

Luke Morris

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E-mail: lukesmorris [at] gmail [dot] com

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