Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Newspaper Route, Part 3: Working for the Weekends

The work schedule for a sports journalist is not the easiest. Sporting events often occur at night, so we work nights. More sporting events occur on weekends, so we work weekends. The crazy schedule comes with the territory, and when I started in Madison at The Capital Times in 1995, I fully invaded that territory.

The Cap Times was an afternoon paper, and for sports copy editors, that meant working early mornings. On good days, I started at 5:30 a.m.; on days I was supervising, I started a 4 a.m. But because we were an a.m. paper on Saturday mornings but we had to wait to typeset pages until after the Wisconsin State Journal, who we shared presses with, were off the floor, I worked Friday nights as well (about two of every three) often wouldn't be done until after 2 a.m. I'd get home and have about 48 hours to try getting 24 hours of sleep before I returned to work.

Amid this nuttiness was the fact I had all of Saturday and all of Sunday off work. We didn't publish a Sunday paper, so after the Saturday morning edition was complete, I enjoyed a true weekend until Monday morning. The reporters of course might have had to cover something on Saturday or Sunday, but us copy editors were free and clear. I was lucky enough to have each Saturday off in Milwaukee because the Sentinel didn't publish a Sunday paper, either, but we still worked Sundays. In Madison, I had both weekend days off, and if I worked Friday morning, I had Friday night of my weekend to enjoy as well.

The hours sucked in Madison, but the weekends were truly great. The years Lori and I spent there, right after we were married in 1997, might have been the best of our pre-kid lives, and I think they were definitely the happiest years of my professional career. We would travel to northern Wisconsin or to Chicago to see our families, then be back in time for work on Monday morning. We would go on adventures, taking our bikes to trails all over southern Wisconsin. We watched University of Wisconsin football or basketball, or went to the movies. We could just spend a lazy Saturday, driving around, listening to "Saturday at the '70s" on Magic 98, or building a fire in our apartment's fireplace and cozying up for the evening.

Eventually, we knew it was time to move on from Madison, and we ended up in Salt Lake City in 2000. I had Sundays off for a couple years, but I lost that as I took on more responsibility. My days off were then during the week and never coincided with Lori's. Our perfect Madison weekends were only a memory.

We don't regret leaving Madison, because it was time for a change. The mornings were killing me, and eventually The Capital Times ceased print publication and I would have been on nights with the State Journal anyway. Lori was ready to leave Wisconsin and build our own lives in a new place. But years later, I can appreciate how good we had it in Madison, especially with our weekends.

I knew the deal about being a newspaper sports journalist and accepted going from having every Saturday off for nine years to getting only four off a year. I thought I could live with that and the new schedule.After six years in Salt Lake, it turned out I couldn't.