Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | October 27, 2017

A little bit about what I do

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My new LinkedIn profile; updated with fulltime employment.

In my last post, I announced with great enthusiasm my return to daily journalism.

I have many friends who work (or among my lucky retiree friends, have worked) in newsrooms. But it occurs to me that many people don’t have the slightest idea what a “multi-platform news editor/slot” does on a given day.

As I was grinding away one night earlier this week, I sent my daughter, her boyfriend and my wife a basic digest of my night. I think the subject field of the message was something like: “Just so you know what my typical work day looks like.”

Then I started thinking (yup, occasionally this happens), maybe other people might find this useful. And then I got to thinking some more (uh huh); you know, newspapers get a bad rap because people don’t really appreciate the depth and breadth of what they do, how they inform readers about their community, their world. This is important stuff, I thought to myself. Then there was this guy from the new website, “The Athletic,” who took a big dump on newspapers (and then apologized for it — once he hired a competent PR professional, I’d assume), and I thought (again), dammit, newspapers matter. People should just stop and appreciate how lucky we are to live in a country with a vibrant and free news media.

Look around the world. Reporters in other “free” countries are threatened, imprisoned or killed. Here, I would submit, journalists are misunderstood because people don’t know what we do or fully appreciate the value of what is freely available to them every single day. We can argue about quality, or political viewpoints, or rural vs. urban policies — or bike lanes, for crying out loud. But at least we can argue, write about it and then come home at the end of the day and know that we won’t be imprisoned for our opinions. I know, I know … blah, blah, blah …

Anyway, without further ado, adieu, here’s what a typical night for a typical news editor at a major metro daily newspaper might look like. (This is, more or less, exactly the note I sent to my loved ones, with a little light editing — and the elimination of a few expressions of light profanity. Well, light profanity for me, probably heavy profanity for everyone else. For those who want my unedited thoughts, see me. Preferably over beer.)


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Tuesday’s newspaper. The Daily Miracle.

A typical day on a typical news desk.
By Mark Wollemann, Oct. 23, 2017.

  • First thing I did today is edit a bunch of outdoors copy for Friday’s paper (stuff about Minnesotans’ favorite cabin stories, a nature piece on migrating birds, a dispatch about favorite dog stories — awwww).
  • I edited some advance business copy about “keeping up with the latest tech” for tech-phobic old people (of course)
  • I edited a story about Microsoft teaming up with the Packers to launch a tech/venture fund initiative in Green Bay, one of several Microsoft is boosting in small cities in rural areas across the country. $10 million worth of seed money (5 from MS, 5 from Pack).
  • I edited a police report (we run a police “blotter” for our suburban zoned regions on Sundays). Highlight: “Animal complaint. Loose sheep were reported near County Road 15. The situation was resolved.”

Then I started editing stories for the daily paper. I edited, wrote headlines and photo captions for …

  • A story about how Minneapolis mayoral candidates are all talking about ways to build racial equity into city government, seizing on stats that show how minority communities are lagging behind in education, health care, jobs and money.
  • A story about Patterson Cos. naming a new CEO (don’t ask).
  • A story about how 3M and Caterpilar quarterly earnings report led the way for a Dow Jones rally on Wall Street today. Also, 3M predicting a boffo year for shareholders. Lots of work in the industrial adhesives, especially for tech devices.
  • A story about St. Catherin (local college — St. Kate’s) adjunct professors decided not to form a union to collectively bargain a contract.
  • A cheeky story about a Washington Post reporter “dissing” Minnesota in a tweet and Minnesotans tweeting back at him with their own Minnesota-style insults: “No hot dish for you!”

Then I turned my attention to “slotting” (being the last read on stories before they hit the paper and the website. These stories included:

  • An obit about the astronaut who helped repair the Skylab orbiting laboratory in 1973. Paul Weitz. If you get a chance, go read about him. Interesting.
  • The sad release of FBI documents about the Sandy Hook shooter.
  • The story about a breastfeeding mom on the Eau Claire, Wis., City Council who wouldn’t stop breastfeeding so the other council members voted to ban ALL KIDS from the council chambers, therefore banning the breastfeeding mom or at the very least her kid from the room.
  • The quest of Minneapolis to start replacing its gas-powered vehicles with electric ones over the next 10 years (it’ll cost more money to buy the cars, but they estimate it’ll save more money in the end).
  • A story about the National Park Service raising fees, in some cases by triple, in 17 national parks.
  • St. Paul’s police union pressing an African American mayoral candidate about guns and ammunition that was stolen from his house (and getting huge blowback from critics who called the effort blatant racism).
  • National and international wires briefs about China, Kenya, hot temps in LA
  • The suicide death of a once-promising high school football player from St. Paul whose life went off the rails.
  • Two random people shot in St. Paul as part of ongoing violence in that city.
  • Oh, and doping — actually doping — in the Iditarod dog sled race!! By a four-time champion. Can you believe that? Man, people are just not good.

And that’s just what I handled. I didn’t handle any Trump copy or much political stuff (other than the local politics stuff).

But it was a busy night and I still have another hour or so to go, so I’ll start burning through copy for the Sunday paper before I’m done.

This was a more-or-less typical day. Maybe I handled a little more stuff tonight than usual, but it’s amazing the breadth of stuff that appears in your local newspaper. And that doesn’t even include the 8-10 pages of sports, including the first night of high school football playoffs, college sports features, NBA and NHL games locally, Vikings stuff and the World Series. And it also doesn’t include anything in our features sections (theater, music, arts, food … not to mention crossword puzzles and comic strips!). Or the Op-Ed pages.

So, in short, I’m just saying — well, let’s just say Alex Mather doesn’t know what he’s talking about when he derides newspapers and their role in the community. Readers have access to all of this and so much more for, what, 35 cents a day. Maybe 50? Are you kidding me? Imagine how well-informed you’d be if you read even a fraction of what I’ve just outlined here.

I’ve never really done this, gone down and charted what we do in a day. But it’s pretty breath-taking.

That is all. I have to go to work. But support your local newspaper, people. Thanks!




  1. Thanks Mark!

  2. Thank you, Mark, for reminding all of us how important a free press is in this age of news on all kinds of platforms, real and fake. Readers of all those posts must be able to tell the difference between fact and opinion.

  3. Very informative stuff, Mark. That’s quite a productive shift. Also has one of the funnier typos I’ve seen of late. Pretty sure it should be “without further ado”: otherwise you’re saying goodbye. :o)

    • See what happens when I try to get fancy? Ha.

      • Is there a saying in our trade along the lines of “physician, heal thyself”? Actually, editing one’s own copy is a bitch.

      • Yup.

  4. Everyone — even editors — needs an editor.

  5. One of the things I liked most about being one of the last people out of the newsroom (back in the day) is seeing all the evidence of the night’s minor miracle (sometimes major). I still miss that. Thanks for the reminder!

  6. As a person who recently signed on with The Athletic to write about the Timberwolves, let me emphatically state that the owners of the site do not speak for all employees and that your sentiments about Mather are enthusiastically seconded.

  7. I’d like to come upstairs for a visit sometime! Maybe we can grab lunch. (Oh, wait. You work afternoons to evenings. Ooops.) Anyway, proud subscriber to Sunday edition and occasionally pick up a weekday (usually Thursday, for the food section and x-word), so keep on doin’ what you’re doin’! 😀

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