Ever wonder what it takes to keep a newspaper editor up at night?
I don’t tend to stress too much about work, but what can really keep my eyeballs open is waking up the night after the paper’s been put to bed and realizing we made a major mistake that can no longer be fixed.
Thankfully we don’t make a lot of major mistakes at The Western Producer, but you’d be surprised how many times the ones we do make pop into my head hours after the point of no return.
I thought one of those times was occurring in the early morning hours of April 13, less than 12 hours after the April 15 issue had been sent to the printers.
Winnipeg reporter Robert Arnason had written a story the previous week about how the northern Great Plains are getting wetter and warmer. In other words, droughts are expected to become less frequent.
We thought that would make an interesting story for our April 15 front page but also decided we needed to acknowledge that the eastern part of the Prairies has been incredibly dry for the last year or two.
Robert compiled precipitation data for Brandon and Weyburn, Sask., late in the week, but then weather forecasters started talking about a major snowstorm for the area in the early part of the following week.
Robert filed his story on Friday, April 9, and wrote about the snowstorm as if it had already happened. Remember, the paper doesn’t start hitting post office boxes until Thursday.
It was my job to check on Monday as we put the finishing touches on the paper to make sure the storm was actually taking place.
Well, guess who forgot to do that on Monday? And guess who remembered he had forgotten to do that very early Tuesday morning? And guess who dithered about it for an hour or two instead of going back to sleep?
When I got up Tuesday morning I looked through my emails before checking the weather, and there waiting for me was a photo from Andrea Kotylak of a boy, knee-deep in a snow bank, digging out his snowmobile on a farm near Kendal, Sask., in eastern Saskatchewan. (You can find the photo here.)
Crisis averted — the snow had arrived just like we had said it would. Too bad I couldn’t have gone back to sleep.