Time is an asterisk

Welcome to this week’s Reno News & Review.

Rebecca West called journalism “the challenge of filling space.” The noted wit said that back in the day when newspapers were huge, and I believe she meant it literally: What does one put on all these pages?

I can tell you, the filling of the newsprint has never been a problem at this newspaper. I will also tell you, at times we’ve published dreck, stuff that never should have seen the light of newsprint—my work, same as anybody else’s. It’s the nature of the beast, and baby, I love the beast.

But, that challenge of filling space also has a timeliness component that really impacts … not the quality exactly, but more the content selections we make. For example: This week, I’m writing this editor’s note less than an hour after we put the Thanksgiving issue to bed. I used to write these weird-deadline notes in sort of a future-past tense because I find it disconcerting to write under these conditions, but on days like I had today, I have neither the humor nor the inclination to play with words or try to say anything that might still be relevant on Dec. 10.

So I’m typing, trying to fill space with something that might matter metaphorically to someone who, like me, has to move ahead. Not because moving ahead will advance whatever project needs finishing—after all, I’m as likely as not to rewrite this note next week—but because there is a value in the moving. Journalists, like other sharks, die if they stop the relentless push against the tide.

it’s not busywork just because it’s tedious. If it moves the process (or your life) ahead from the point it’s at now, it’s a personal or professional advancement.

And you know what? I’ve never used algebra in real life. But i still feel better for having studied it.