It took me almost three months but I finally made a ginormous mistake this past Monday, my oversight depriving everyone in Tullahoma their sports page (although you are getting extra sports today to make up for it).
However, in my defense, while my inability to fully read an inter-office memo forced a last-minute radical re-design of The News for the Wednesday edition, everyone in Manchester got a sports page thanks to me. For those of you in Manchester … you’re welcome. To those in Tullahoma, you have my humble apologizes.
“What do you mean the paper prints today at two o’clock!” pointed out one of my staff who will remain nameless for fear of being kicked in the shin. “How long have you known about this?”
Scratching the back of my head I sheepishly replied, “Well, I just found out it was printing at two,” I began. “But, I guess I may have overlooked that in a memo I got a couple of weeks ago.”
“A couple of weeks ago!” she continued. “How could you have overlooked something like that?”
That was a very good question, deserving of a very good answer. “Um, I don’t know,” I replied. “Where I’m from we get the Wednesday before Thanksgiving paper ready on Monday but don’t print until Tuesday. I guess here you do it different.”
“Uh huh,” she nodded knowingly at me. ‘You do realize you’re in Tullahoma now, don’t you?”
“I sure ain’t in Kansas anymore, Toto,” I sighed, realizing I had to make a decision of what to do.
Taking the bull by the horns, I knew it’d just take us hustling a little bit to get it done. Um, did I mention it was 11 a.m. when we had this conversation, meaning we had three hours to make deadline. I had just gotten through sending the sports page to the Manchester Times. Their sports reporter left (if you want to be a sports writer call them immediately) so I was the only option. Therefore, I got to the office Monday morning and began putting it together and had just sent it to them when I was “reminded” of the two o’clock deadline.
“This isn’t a problem,” I said trying to calm everyone down. “I’m used to working under stress. This will be a breeze. Just get Zach (our sports guy) on the phone and tell him we got to do it today.”
I felt pretty good about how I handled my first crisis. “I’m really good at what I do,” I patted myself on the back as I turned to walk to my office. However, my self-appreciation was stopped in its tracks with the next four words I heard.
“Zach is in Phoenix,” my reporter called after me.
“What did you say?” I gulped.
“Remember, Zach is in Phoenix,” she repeated.
“That’s in Arizona, isn’t it?” I heard myself say. “I guess there’s no chance his plane is landing at this instant in Nashville, is there?”
“Nope,” she replied.
I’m one of those who is really calm under pressure. It’s hard to phase me but inside the panic button was pushed with those four words.
“Keep it together, Duane. Don’t panic,” I told myself as my eyes went back and forth looking for a way to solve the problem.
However, there was no way. Our sports guy was gone – with my blessing – and it was too late to get the sports. “Could I just use Manchester’s sports page?” I asked myself before suddenly realizing I would be tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail if I ever dared put Manchester sports in the Tullahoma paper.
After repressing a panic attack, it came to me. I’d give readers a bonus Lifestyles and Home section and hope they didn’t notice the missing sports. They, of course, did notice it but on the bright side they were given a bonus Lifestyles section.
So, what caused all this mess? That would be me. While I have 30 years’ experience in the news field, that experience has come with one company. It’s sometimes hard for an old dog to learn new tricks and this was the case. Instead of carefully reading the memo, I skimmed and took in the part of about the Sunday deadlines (since that’s the really big paper) and didn’t digest the Wednesday one. This wouldn’t have been a problem unless there had been a perfect storm. But, as you know, when things go bad they usually go really bad.
While meticulous about reading your paper before I let it out the door, I guess I wasn’t as meticulous about reading memos meant for me. Lesson learned. From now on, the memo gets read and posted on the wall of the department.
To the sports lovers in Tullahoma, you have my apologies and extra sports in today’s paper. And, note to self, read all future memos carefully.