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Everyone’s Allowed One (The Yearly Editorial About Writing an Editorial)

James Robinson



I don’t know how it happened. I had been putting off my editorial, all week. I didn’t know why at the time. I normally enjoy writing my editorial, I normally enjoy the chance to get all pissed off about something silly that no one else really gives a toss about. I hadn’t read anything racist, bigoted, silly, homophobic or sexist in the Dominion Post all week. I had had no extremely infuriating run ins with Wellington City Council services for a while (though I did get a parking ticket, on a Sunday, but could I spin the commodification of the parking industry into 900 words?). I was pretty much screwed for options.
This week is the ‘Gender Issue’, so maybe I could’ve taken a tangent off that. However everything that I could possibly think of writing an editorial about tied in a little too directly with content already covered in the magazine. And the fact that I had written two small features for the magazine meant I was burnt out for new ideas along that line. Thursday ticked on. Before I knew it, I’d done everything I could possibly do for the time being. It was 11pm and I had no more time to procrastinate. I had nothing. My pretzel bag was nearing empty and my bottle of Diet Coke (it’s a teeth thing) was well past half drunk. I turned to the troops, a look of panic dripping from my face. “I got nothing guys.”
Nicola Kean, ever the never-say-die battler turned to me unphased and said, “just write your behind the scenes, ‘editorial about writing an editorial’ editorial. You haven’t written that yet. Everyone is allowed one.” Well, huzzah, and a big thank you to Ms. Kean.
Everyone’s allowed one. And here I am about to cash in the equivalent of the get out of jail free card for editors. I almost cashed it in way back in issue three (instead opting for a diatribe tying in cricket, student politics, and the weather. Some may say the card would have been best used then), but I’d held off. Even forgot about it completely, until now that is.
Working at Salient is an interesting job. I still feel like a student, because I’m at University the whole time. You get Fridays off, Nick Kelly knows you by name, and this one time I was seriously undercharged at the café for a meal. By like eight bucks!
We have 125 paid hours at our disposal spread across four writers, a designer, and a sub-editor in chief. There are a core six who spend most of their time in the office, hanging out, laughing too hard at each other’s jokes and generally becoming sycophantic yes-men to each other in order to make us all feel cleverer than we actually are. The core six become the magnificent seven when you take in to account Jon the ad-man. And the magnificent seven become the mighty fleet when you take into consideration the many volunteers that help out each week. Each issue can only become complete with work from around 40 or so writers, designers and cartoonists – which is amazing considering Salient’s incapacity to pay anyone. No token behind the scenes editorial would be complete without acknowledging that. And that those ‘lucky’ enough to get paid usually work about twenty hours overtime. Which is not reimbursed or compensated at all. (Sometimes though, we steal the Hoyts card and watch movies for free even when we don’t review them.)
The weeks slip into an alarmingly similar pattern and we get our routines down pat. The magazine is out on a Monday, we analyse the design, talk about the articles and gauge feedback for a wee-bit. We bemoan our mistakes, love our successes and then by about 5pm on Monday our heads are quite far into the next issue and we’re totally sick of the previous one. Monday is for the cover, and the early-bird arts editors and columnists. Tuesday is for the rest of arts and columns and Wednesday is for features and the other assorted bits. And, inspite of all this tremendously rigid timetabling, half the magazine comes in on a Thursday. Which presents a huge part of the challenge of my job, getting people to give you something for nothing, and subtly ‘nudging’ them when they are late. And then as a cap to the week, on Thursday night, when everyone has gone – Ben (the designer), Nicola and myself work into the small hours of the next morning, resting our heads down to sleep usually around 6am, walking out of the office as the city gears up for another day. There is nothing that makes me more disillusioned than traveling home past the morning joggers. Last year I used to be drunk when I came across the joggers. This year, overworked. It’s another brand of depressing.
The thing that binds all of us together is the fact that we love this magazine. And we’re proud of it. No matter what wall of apathy and nonchalance we come up against. It’s kind of exhausting, sometimes unrewarded and we work two floors above VUWSA – but we like it. It’s one of those jobs that is worth the odd sacrifice.
And so I can declare that we here at Salient are proud to grace the bathrooms of thousands of students across this fair city. And as a side note slash shameless plug, we’re online again (www.salient.org.nz). And you can’t wipe with a website. Period.