The Wide Angle: Surviving the rigors of Progress

Published 7:00 am Saturday, February 16, 2019

As is so often uttered at the beginning of so many graduation speeches, I dare say the words, “Well, we made it.”

Now we, the newsroom, haven’t graduated in the way one might expect. We garnered no special accomplishments, were not voted “most likely to succeed,” and we we certainly didn’t get brightly colored yellow tassles that mark us as the next bright minds, ready to take over the world.

Rather, we graduated from another year of Progress.

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That special section that by far is the biggest of the year. One hundred and twenty-eight pages of stories, pictures and ads that highlight Austin and our area.

It’s definitely worth the read and when it comes out at the end of this month, I certainly encourage you to pick up a copy. In fact, it will be coming out about the same time as the next issue of Austin Living magazine, and with the poles seemingly shifting to settle directly over us, why not pick up both of them to read next to the bonfire you undoubtedly have started in the living room to stave off the winter.

However, Progress is a bit more than a source of pride for the Herald and if you would permit, I would like to do a swan dive onto the sword I have placed so conveniently at the center of the newsroom.

For the small staff of a small paper, putting together Progress is no small feat. There is a balancing act that seems more like dance choreography than anything else, because while we are trying to build our stockpile of stories and photos and ads, we are at the same time putting together the aforementioned Austin Living magazine as well as a five-day-a-week daily newspaper.

It’s rarely an easy thing. I’ve been doing this for several years, dating all the way back to 2004, and since then I have come to encompass several different duties. This is the first year I’ve headed the organization and let me tell you, it’s not easy. Any kind of disorganization can severly hinder the job we’re trying to do.

At this point I unabashidly tell you, that without the staff I have in the newsroom, it in no way comes out as smoothly as it did this year.

As it is, we finished up with two days to spare, which is a big deal. I’ve been through years where it’s gone less than smoothly and we’ve run up against deadline, so you can imagine that by Wednesday, when we were already near the halfway point of lay-out I began to get nervous. What am I missing?

Progress organization just doesn’t go that smoothly, but many of the staff, with the exception of our newest reporter Hannah Yang, have been through this at its roughest point and came out on the other end.

Michael Stoll and Rocky Hulne are veterans of this publication and of course we brought Deb Nicklay in off the benches of retirement to not only handle a number of stories for us, but help me in proofing the stories before they hit the page. As for Hannah? She handled it like a seasoned pro.

This goes way beyond the newsroom and so I now turn this into a love-letter of sorts to the rest of our team. Susan Downey and Colby Hansen handle the ads you will see. When you get Progress, just page through and look at the ads. They had a hand in all of them and organized them to boot. Again, no small feat, especially when you consider that Colby was my partner in crime when it came to laying out stories for this beast.

And to get those ads to those two required the ad staff of Brenda Landherr, Heather Ryks, Mike Delhanty and Brodie Long, all under the management of our publisher Jana Norman — i.e. the woman who puts up with a large amount of my shenanigans on a day-to-day basis and is still bold enough to hand over the newsroom to a man openly displaying  toys on his desk.

I think you are really going to enjoy Progress this year and I hope that when you read these stories you look at your neighbors in a different way.

Not in the different way Jana probably looks at me, but in that way that tells you … “wow, we live in a pretty cool little area.”