The fuel that fires a newspaper office

There are a lot of things that inspire, excite and agitate around a newspaper office – a host of high-minded principles and ethical imperatives.

Of course, there is also the quest for the story, for truth such as it can be known. Sure, getting the story is part of what powers a newsroom.

Telling a good story. Sometimes that is something that even we forget, but telling a good story is essential fuel for reporters’ fire.

Other departments in Minot Daily News have other things that power them.

Today however, for something a little lighter than the usual Editor’s Notebook fare and in appreciation of the season, I thought I would share a distinct dynamic of media offices all over the country. You know what really carries our industrious staff in all departments through day after day of creating from scratch a product you will want, with the long hours and other challenges that make up our routine.

It’s food. Newspaper offices (magazine offices too, by the way) are obsessed with food. It’s been that way in my 25 years in the industry and I am told it was that way before my time too. And it isn’t just newspapers in foodie cities or food-driven magazines.

Now, I know all sorts of different offices are food-driven. As a student, I always thought school offices were well-stocked every day with baked goods and treats. But that doesn’t compare to newspaper offices.

The thought occurred to me one night last week when I was digging around a drawer trying to find a knife so our production team could cut a leftover sheet cake at 6 p.m. This was at the tail end of a day that featured a delicious catered breakfast prepared by one employee’s famously talented husband; the sweets that are ever-present; and a few other things I think disappeared before I noticed.

On an average morning, as I say hello to staff in all our departments, the question isn’t if there is going to be food in most if not each one of them, the question is going to be who has the most distinct or irresistible dish. Some staff members are so prepared, they have crock pot warmers, multiple-top portable stoves and amazing assortments of carry bags for all the accouterments.

A couple of weeks ago, I opened an internal email to find that my co-workers had declared “dip day,” which was terrific.

We have several annual company-wide meals/parties. We start planning them months in advance.

I have no idea where the tradition came from. I am sure our particular staff is important at Minot Daily News. But why such a common thing elsewhere too? I imagine the fact that we spend a lot of time around the office in our business and can’t always find time to bring or go out to lunch (much less something homemade) is part of it. I am sure the foxhole closeness media people develop from working under intense pressure is part of it. Personality also matters. To succeed long-term in this industry takes a certain type of person, and that type of person is inclined to bond with co-workers. Food isn’t just a human need. It’s culture. It’s art, and sharing food is one of the most iconic acts of kindness and compassion in all of human civilization.

While I have written before about how slow it can get around the office this time of year, there is at least no shortage of food. So while I might lament slow news days, you won’t hear me complain that there isn’t a virtual smorgasbord surrounding us.

So all of our ethical mandates and professional responsibilities? Sure, they power us through our work most of the time.

But the bountiful table(s) provided by our co-workers sure help other times.

It wouldn’t be fair for me to continue to share the behind the scenes operations of the Minot Daily News newsroom without revealing the importance of our colleague’s huge contribution – particularly this time of year. Besides, while you might disagree with my – or the paper’s collective – position on one thing or another, your humble editor is no dummy. What a fool I would be to ignore the simple delight of friends and colleagues coming together over homemade food seasoned with love?

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