Checking out my office time machine

Managing Editor Gary DeVonOpen public meetings and open public records are very important to the newspaper business, as they should be to all our citizens. Towards that end the state Attorney General reminds our public boards, like the city council, school and hospital boards, that if they are going to change a meeting time or place or call a special meeting, they should give their local newspapers 24-hour written notice.

Back in the stone age, when I started in this business that meant literally having someone type out the notice and send it to us in the mail. With the advent of fax machines the process was sped up for our governing bodies and now it’s even faster via email. All three forms of delivery, and I suppose hand delivery, are OK with the attorney general.

Some agencies are requesting they be notified each year to make sure your news outlet stays on the list, while not a requirement of the law, according to the AG, it’s probably not a bad idea to comply. So, in light of that I went searching on the Washington State Newspaper Publisher’s website to see if they have a ready-made form, because the last request I recall sending in was about 20 years ago and that seemed to be enough for most agencies. Well, I couldn’t find a form online at the WNPA and “googling” only proved sunshine laws in many states are similar to those in Washington. Most mention the request, but I couldn’t find a preformed form. So, my attempt to be lazy, as usual, created even more work. In the time I took trying to find one online I could have fashioned two or three paragraphs of my own and then some.

I tell you all that to get to the “time machine” aspect of this endeavor. By actually not finding it online it sent me to, God forbid, my big, ugly, olive drab file cabinet to see if I could find one filed under something like “forms.” No luck, however, it did start me looking at all those “F” files I’ve been saving over the years – files like Forest Service, one of the fattest, and Foreign Trade Zone, Free Trade Zone, Farm Workers Clinic and Fishing. Then there are files for articles that have included people like U.S. Rep. Tom Foley, former Speaker of the House; former state legislators Steve Fuhrman and Helen Fancher, former Tonasket Councilman and Mayor, Tom Fancher, local surveyor and former North End Water Users board member Guy Fisher, and many more.

Each time I look in my big, ugly green Time Machine, BUGTM for short, I pull a few file folders and dump their contents in File 13 (my so-labeled trash can). I keep the file folders just in case I want to start a new file on something or someone. Despite most of my actual files being on computer now, I haven’t been able to part with the BUGTM. It represents more than just what I put into it over the years, it also contains files going back to reporters and editors that came before me – some whose hieroglyphic handwriting I’ve yet to decipher.

While there’s a lot more room nowadays to save things on computers, it hasn’t always been so. They started out with tiny hard drives and grew bigger with each upgrade. However, with each upgrade we also lost files because they never seem to all get transferred to the new machine. Or, the bosses never really seemed to take those old files quite as seriously as my OCD self and didn’t insist everything be saved. Computers, time savers or time wasters that they are, are not the catch all that some people think they are. We have lots of people who come in and think we’ve got every article and every photo saved somewhere in the computer, or better yet, online. Unfortunately that’s not so. Even to scan all our old “bound” copies would be a time consuming and expensive proposition. One that we’d all like to see, but may not happen any time soon. So, like my BUGTM, the only way to call up information is to do so the old fashioned way. But be careful, once you open those drawers or start flipping through the back issues, you can get lost in a time warp that can suck you in like a Black Hole.

By the way, I never did find that form, I guess I’ll have to type one up on my own.