We're heading into the typical crunch of year-end madness in the newsroom. And it's always highlighted by trying to make ends meet as too many of us try to cram in the rest of our vacation days before we lose them.
So many, in fact, that we decided to start celebrating the holidays a bit early this year, so more of us could enjoy the festivities. Thanks to universal desk editor Mary K. Means, we have an annual potluck feast that starts at noon, and continues well into the evening as the night crew brings in the umpteenth round of courses. There was ham and turkey, of course. Everyone was asked to bring a side dish -- and they ranged from Business Editor Jennifer Rich's scrumptious casserole to the night crew's typical cuisine expertise, KFC's classic cole slaw. (Mary K reminds us every year that potato chips are not a vegetable...)
We threw in a gift exchange this year -- nothing flashy, mind you. With a $10 limit, the gift had to have that personal touch to be priceless.
Which brings me to why I'm sharing this with you. Our newsroom made time stop for just a bit last Wednesday. We stopped answering phones and emails. We stopped posting breaking news. We looked up from our computers, took a break from all those interviews -- just for an hour or so.
We gathered around the center of the newsroom, and tapped East Manatee Editor Jim Jones to be the official Santa. Draped in red ribbon, Jim started handing out the gifts: a bottle of wine, a toast of champagne, a Books-a-Million gift certificate. The hook-em horns hat for always-Texan Gary Taylor. News Editor Matt Pallister got Photo Editor Tom O'Neill some classic Tupperware so Tom would quit spilling his soup as he rushed past Matt's desk, eating on the run. Graphics artist Eric Chapman found just the right slice of Wisconsin cheese for Managing Editor Jim Smith, the newsroom's favorite cheesehead. Local news editor Kelly Lipp found the ultimate calendar for Angie Monroe, who as newsroom manager is always tending everyone else's calendars. Photographer Grant Jefferies knew when he drew my name that the perfect gift would be that stocking for Joan and Joey, my Tibetan spaniel...
Each of the 50 or so gifts brought a smile, and the realization that we care for each other. We somehow have taken the time to get to know each other. And when we turned the real world back on, we knew a bit better that we're all in this together.