The Last Seanachie

Hot Metal

Off stone. That’s it. Done. Last edition of the paper reworked, tweaked, body count upped, pix changed, roughed, subbed, revised, finalled, gash copy spiked, splashes from rivals ripped and renosed, telly for the north replaced with telly from the south, Celtic off the back pages and normal Arsenal-Chelsea dominance resumed.

All out of date, of course, even as I give the go ahead to pre-press. Even before the huge files are transmitted down to the printing presses down the road in Docklands and 200 miles up north in Manchester, all of our efforts are redundant.

And the readers, past REM and gorging themselves on their first batch of deep sleep by now, are blissfully unaware. The paper yet to land on their doormats, the cat litter tray, the pocket, the shoulder bag, the van dashboard, the floor of the Tube, has long been superseded by the man on the telly still gleaming out at me with his TV makeup face and coke eyes with his ‘news just in’ and urgent graphics.

It’s a good one, though. Got bodies. If it bleeds, it leads. But we’re off stone. We’re fixed, the inkies have to play their part now. Fixing yesterday’s news for tomorrow’s readers. Too late for us.

Still, that’s the rhythm of news, of stories, tales. We buttonhole them with deadlines, cram the human melee onto a newslist, a slot on page 5, p3 perhaps if its quirky, p4 for the dull but worthy, but they still persist to evade definition.

That’s why they have me. Night Editor. Putting out the news fires, chipping away at the wordface with my crew, trying to get our 50p of onions out to the masses long after the day crew have gone. Subs Bench

I put the phone down on pre-press. “That’s it guys, thanks. We’re off stone. Three minutes to spare. Well done.” And it was, actually. We’d had a stand-in doing the duty editing, down from features, Flip Flop, one of the bright young things. An ideas man. Not a newsman like our head of news though; if you cut her she’d bleed black and white. So it had been a busy night as Flipper had us chasing down yarns and moving the deckchairs across the editions in a panic. He’d been touted as the next editor, a man with flair, one eye on the future, but news has no respect for futures. It’s all about the continuous NOW and right now all our previous 14 hours of toiling in the news mines are for naught.

Telly man has put on his ‘special’ voice; the one he uses for LOTS of bodies, some of them even Brits.

I go over to the Night reporters Sam and Colin and shoot the breeze. They were Trojans. Not easy getting people to give up their secrets at 1am when they’re spooned with lovers in cosy beds. Takes some skill to coax secrets, hiding your desperation as the deadline crawls towards your blank screen where the splash should be.

“Coming out, lads? The Oak?” I venture.

“You’re fuckin’ joken, aren’t ya? I’m knackered, man,” Sam still has her eyes buried in the heels of her palms, massaging the screen glare out her head. I know how she feels. My eyes have munched through 36 pages on screen tonight as we mopped up Flip Flop’s fuck-ups. It’s like someone has poured sand under my lids. Blinking actually hurts.

“Col?”

A shake of the head from Colin. Chalk and cheese these two. No Teessider expletive fest from Colin.

“Well, good effort, anyhow. I’ve mentioned you in dispatches.” They both snort in unison, aware, as I am, that the tellyman is increasingly being drowned in graphics and talking head experts. Avalanche journalism. There’ll only be one story in town tomorrow and all our efforts tonight will have been a side show.

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