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Column: Working at work has its benefits, too — like people
Shannon Casas high res
Shannon Casas

A newsroom is a fascinating place to work.

A police radio crackles in the background. A reporter laughs at the commentary coming from her cubicle neighbor. Another reporter returns from the field, telling his boss about the crazy conversation he just had with a source. A cranky editor shouts “health care” is two words — two words! Someone else arrives to work and puts goodies on the “food desk,” which is promptly swarmed by curious and always hungry journalists.

News breaks and the pace quickens. A reporter taps away at a keyboard. An editor waits impatiently for enough words to post to the website. Information is pushed to the public as more questions are asked of sources and updates are made. And eventually it’s all put to paper when the presses roll.

That newsroom is quiet now.

The work continues remotely. News still breaks. We remain armed with a sense of purpose in providing vital and accurate information.

But off-the-cuff conversations are few. Someone jokes, but the sound cuts out of the Zoom call and the joke dies. We send messages over Slack with emojis and gifs that help express our feelings, but there’s still something lost in translation through the keyboard.

Working remotely has its benefits, like spending most days outdoors on my deck. But many days I miss my writers, editors and everyone else who keeps the paper running.

A newsroom is a place where smart, funny people gather and debate ideas and tell stories and learn from one another. Some days it’s a slog and some days it’s a ball. But it’s always been a shared experience.

I’ve only ever worked in one professional newsroom. But through the years I’ve shared that experience with countless journalists who made me better, who made me laugh, who I still miss.

There are those who taught me how to ask the right questions, not just the obvious ones, and others whose creative feature writing pushed me to better my own. 

Some had a magical way of taking a random idea and turning it into a compelling story. Others’ energy in a breaking news situation fired up those around them, too. 

Some made their work look easy, and years into this profession, I realize their skills slowly rubbed off on me.

There are others who have made me laugh and who brightened the newsroom just by being in it.

A few graciously let me vent and helped me refocus on what matters. And sometimes they made me rethink my position on an issue, called me on it when I said something stupid or just bounced ideas around with me until something good bubbled up.

We sharpen each other and are better together.

I don’t know what our newsroom will look like when we emerge from this. We’ll continue working together as best we know how, and I hope our community and the myriad other workplaces in it will do the same.

The model our local hospital is using shows the peak of local cases may not hit until June.

We’ll be covering an election June 9, and though I know we can get the job done, I don’t know how to enjoy the traditional election night pizza remotely.

All the Zoom and Slack and email and phone calls don’t make up for some things.

Shannon Casas is editor in chief of The Times and a foster parent. 

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