When I made the big leap from magazine editor to public relations executive lo, those many years ago, it was with a great sense of relief that I would never again have to produce a daily newspaper. The publication I worked for was a business and management monthly aimed at owners and managers of travel agencies.
One thing I learned early on is that travel agents like to go places and hold meetings. One thing our publisher learned early on was that advertisers would pay to be in small publications produced and published at the site of a meeting. As a result, I worked on dailies in such far-flung places as Cairo, Egypt; Nassau, Bahamas; Memphis, Tenn.; Miami, Fla., and New York City. I thought that I had left all that behind when I evolved from hack to flack.
Unfortunately, due to some particularly egregious sin in a past life, I apparently am destined to be a part-time newspaper editor in perpetuity.
For the past 14 years I have been editor of “Seatrade Today,” the daily newspaper we publish on site during the Seatrade Cruise Shipping Convention, the cruise industry’s largest and most significant annual gathering. For three months leading up to the event, I am inundated by PR types, marketing directors and ad men seeking to place stories in the paper.
Of course, given the international nature of the convention, much of the copy submitted is in some only partially Anglicized dialect in which the finer points of semantic meaning are bludgeoned to a pulp by an incomplete grasp of the basics of English grammar. Then there are the telephone conversations with anonymous pitch persons with impenetrable accents. And don’t even get me started on the amazing diversity of photo formats that have as much in common with “high resolution” as a cat and a hammer.
So, from a staff of one (me) we grow to a staff of two when Andy Newman starts laying out pages (Andy likes to give himself a new title every year, and in 2008 elevated himself to “executive editor,” while I remain, humbly, “editor.”), to finally a staff of four during the actual convention.
Over the years, “Seatrade Today” has grown from a two-color, 8.5-inch by 11-inch, four-pager to a 16-page, four-color, tabloid-size daily. Despite technological advances, publishing the paper remains a challenge, but one that so far we have been able to meet every day for every year.
We have developed a couple of mottos for our publication: “All the News that Fits,” which refers to the fact that no matter what, there will always be a disappointed PR person who promised what we did not deliver, and “If You Have Food or Booze You Have News,” which refers to our quid pro quo practice of providing editorial coverage in exchange for libations and/or comestibles delivered to the newsroom.
Working on “Seatrade Today” does not engender feelings of nostalgia for the bygone days of publishing. On the contrary, the only positive emotion I associate with the daily is the sense of relief I feel when we pack up our computers and return to the office at the end of the convention.