they say once the ink of newspapers get into your blood it is there to stay. i walked into my old newsroom today – well not my original one where i was stationed in Johannesburg – but her sister one.
people i’d worked with or known, some for over 20 years came and greeted me. it was like i had never left. ‘hey you’, one young man said, ‘you used to be my news editor.’ we’re talking like ten years ago. i remembered his smile, later i subbed his copy on homeless people in cape town.
the sub next to me, a former psychologist, who ended up in newspapers editing, reminisced with me about our first newspaper we started out at in Johannesburg in the 80s. he told me of how , at one stage, he decided to go and become a postman and they wouldn’t give him the job because he was overqualified. “i told them i thought it would be great to be outdoors all the time, they told me to stop messing with them.”
another woman spoke of a date she’d had the night before with a good religious man who wanted to kill all criminals.
these were my people. newspaper people. i’d forgotten them. teaching writing i realise how important it is to always make a return to the coal face so that you remember what it is really like, lest it all become just theory.
i believe everyone should go back to their roots every now and then – to not to forget where you have come from in life. sometimes we get too big for our boots, but the newspaper guys i worked with last night and tonight, they’re magic, and they remind me to keep it real. and so does the small pay i’m getting for the shifts. it feels good somehow, to roll up one’s sleeves and get dirty. i am so grateful for the opportunity (and the work and the pay).
i’ve been very cynical about newspapers, and stopped reading them a long time ago. saying i was unconscious when i worked at them – that you had to be to work on newspapers. but tonight i saw something different. i heard the extreme pain in the voice of a woman revise subbing a story about two pygmy sperm whales who had beached in False bay and had to be euthanased. I also saw the horror in the eyes of another sub as she revised the story of a man who had allegedly murdered and raped the sister of his ex-girlfriend, after the girlfriend had tried to end the relationship.
it’s quite a thankless job, just you and your computer screen, fixing up copy and putting in headlines. i wish there was happier copy. i wish there wasn’t so much pain. and i do believe we need to start finding the beauty again and to show it through the media. as a sub, you’re one of the last cogs in the wheel, by the time the copy comes to you it has gone through quite a process.
subbing is not where i originally started, nor will it be where i end. i am a writer, but i am forever grateful for the opportunity to play with words in any way i can, as words are my first love.
i am not sure if any of this makes sense, i am exhausted, and about to drop off. with the smell of newspaper on me.
ps. you may notice that i don’t often use capital letters. forgive me, but that is my day and night job, here – well this is my time to have crazy fun with words 🙂