Inside the Newsroom

News, commentary, insight on local happenings and fun from the staff of The Saline Reporter and Milan News-Leader.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

And miles to go before I sleep

The following was submitted by The View staff reporter Jerry LaVaute:

Some days just seem to go on forever.

This job as a reporter is very different from the daily rhythms of my 31-year career at Ford.

There, I would arrive at the office about 8 a.m., and leave most days by 6 p.m.

I emphasize most days because my work schedule at Ford could vary dramatically, depending on the time of month or year, or the need to prepare for meetings with Ford senior management, voracious for all things data, particularly financial data.

When I retired, I saved the hard copy of my calendar on my last day at Ford – Jan. 20, 2009.

There were about eight meetings on my calendar for that day, about half of which I attended.

And my open assignments, which I also wrote on my calendar? There were over 20 of those.

Prioritizing and re-prioritizing assignments was a daily, and sometimes an hourly necessity. The to-do list that you prepared in your head during the morning commute was often ancient history by mid-morning – the only constant, it seemed, was change.

Working for the newspaper is very different. I start a little later each day, on average, but I sometimes end the day much later. On a recent Monday, I ended my workday at around 9 p.m., and the following night I worked past 11 p.m.

I work more on weekends, most often covering events scheduled for Saturday – morning, afternoon or evening.

There is travel, with potentially unproductive time in between appointments or assignments, which needs to be filled with productive work, including people to interview, meetings to attend, events to cover – and writing.

On Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, I had an interview with a guidance counselor at Belleville High School at 9:30 in the morning. We were developing a story on teen pregnancy, and she was very helpful.

After the interview, I went to the Belleville library and got some work done, using my new netbook computer. What a helpful addition that is – it allows me to be mobile, and still get my work done. If I’m in an area where I can receive a cell phone call, I have access to the Internet.

I left the library shortly before Noon, for another interview with a teacher at Haggerty School.

I returned again to the library, and left again for an interview at 3:15 p.m. with Todd Knepper, who recently resigned his post as Director of Public Works for Van Buren Township.

I have enjoyed working with Todd for the last couple years, and wanted to chat with him before he left for his new job.

At 4 p.m., the VBT work -study meeting began, and lasted till a bit a after 5 p.m.

I headed out and drove to the city of Milan to attend a 6:30 p.m. city council work- study meeting, where the mayor and the council members discussed their upcoming budget.

At around 7:45, they began their regular meeting, which I also covered for the newspaper. I think I got home to the Belleville area around 9 p.m.

Early the next morning, I wrote a story about the council meeting in Milan, added it to our website, and sent it to my editor for publication in the newspaper.

At 11 a.m., I left again for Milan, this time for an interview with a teacher at Milan High School for the story on teen pregnancy.

Back in Belleville, I had a 2:30 p.m. interview with a teacher at Edgemont for a story on Flat Stanley, a character in a series of children’s books. After the interview, I went home for a bit.

At 7 p.m., I rousted myself from my easy chair and traveled to the VBT Board of Trustees meeting scheduled for 7:30 p.m. That lasted almost four hours, and I arrived home at 11:30 p.m.

The following day, I wrote a couple stories about the previous night’s meeting, and submitted them to my editor for publication the following day in the newspaper.

The rest of the day was spent writing, with a visit to the vet for my dog Maisie interrupting my work.

The following day, newspaper publication day, I went to my office and worked till about 2 p.m., when I left for an annual physical with my doctor in Canton.

I stayed in Canton, again visiting the library there with my computer, and wrote a bit more until a budget meeting at 7 p.m. at my church in Canton.

It was a busy week, punctuated by appointments, listening, making notes, taking photos, filming videos, travel, asking questions, and the story-writing process, that often follows some set patterns, but each story unfolds in its own unique way – part of the reason that I like this job.

Gerald LaVaute is a staff writer for Heritage Newspapers. He can be reached at or call 1-734-429-7380. Check out our staff blog at


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