Brace yourselves, people. I’m about to break out of character. I have nice things to say about my bosses. This is not easy for me.
When the lights went out at the Sun Journal last week, it was like being part of a football team. A Super Bowl-winning football team. Seconds after the place went dark, seasoned editors huddled around desks. They whipped out small flashlights and looked across the playing field of the newsroom. They scowled, twirled pens in their fingers and got to work. Strategies were worked over. Options were discussed. There were no handy buttons to push, but these strategists were working around it.

A journalistic nightmare did not slow those wily pros. We were in the Dark Ages at the dawn of deadline. But the show must go on. The Sun Journal wants its paper on the street in the morning. Professionals who can work in the dark made it happen.

A business built on technology is vulnerable. When the plug is pulled from the wall, wits are all we have to rely on. Fear is not an option.

The Sun Journal is not afraid of the dark.

Contingency plans were hashed out. Notes were scrawled on scraps of paper. Cell phones were procured and calls went out. The all-stars arrived within minutes.

I take potshots at my bosses all the time in this space. I do it because I was one of those kids who made faces behind the teacher’s back. I used to get hauled out of class by the ear for throwing spitballs at the principal.

Provoking authority is kind of a hobby. Not on that night, though.

When the bosses came into the dark newsroom, I stood aside and watched them work: the executive editor in jeans and a baseball cap, the publishers in sweat pants and running shoes. They rallied the team and acted like leaders should – fearless and decisive.

I’ve worked on construction sites and in loud factories. I’ve stood beside men who clenched nails in their teeth and maybe swallowed a few while telling dirty jokes. Great guys. Gritty guys. But prone to whining when the machines broke down.

There was no whining at the Sun Journal when our world went dark. If you ever doubt this paper has the reader in mind when its leaders go to work every day, guess again.

All of them wanted that paper on the streets come morning, no matter what it took. The people who sign the paychecks were right there in the trenches. When things get tough at this newspaper, the top dogs get right down in the mud with the rest of us.

I’m as loyal as they come, in spite of my occasional irreverence. My bosses are heroes to me because they create this newspaper and make it great day after day.

It’s a tough business. I’ve seen strong men broken by it. They try their hand at the journalism game and give up, breathless. They go on to something else and tell themselves it was really a personal choice. But the fact is, it takes guts to live with the uncertainty of breaking news and unpredictable calamity. Those who can, do. Those who can’t, quit.

It will always make me scratch my head with wonder when people question why the Sun Journal is on an award-winning streak. Those people weren’t there when the lights went out. They couldn’t handle the pressure any more than they could clench nails between their teeth while telling a dirty joke. They’re not journalists and they have no conception of what it means to be one.

A successful newspaper requires a team of people committed to the news. We are that team – from the guy who hangs out in the carpeted office to the boot-wearing reporter on the streets. No one else in town cares about you as much as we do. Believe it.
Mark LaFlamme is the Sun Journal crime reporter.


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