Column: Opinion editor tells all

Henry Gargan is the Opinion Editor. He is a senior journalism and global studies major from Chapel Hill.

Sometimes my friends ask me what an opinion editor does. I never have a good answer.

“I guess I argue a lot and put commas in the right places,” I say. “And then I try to figure out where my legal pad is. It’s never where you’d expect.”

I wrote a column full of idealistic rambling about our duty to our readers in this semester’s first issue. We’re doing our best, but the practical difficulties of the job have proven substantially more time-consuming and amusing. Here’s a rough look at my day.

9 a.m. — Wake up, roll over, look at phone. I’ll probably have a couple of angry letters waiting for me. Sometimes they’re from readers; sometimes they’re from management. Either way, a nice rush of panic is usually just what I need to get me out of bed.

10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. — Class. Which is really just sending emails and tweeting out links to opinion content.

4:45 p.m. — I arrive at the office and immediately cannot find my legal pad. This is just a symptom of a larger problem, which is that both of the computers in the opinion office are garbage. I’m forced to roam from iMac to iMac as a squatter, staying until a copy editor or a designer kicks me off of their computer. Invariably, my legal pad gets left behind on the way.

5:30 p.m. — Columnists and editorial board members begin to arrive at the office. I spend the first 30 minutes apologizing for not being able to get my computer to work. In the meantime, assistant opinion editor Sam Schaefer engages them in lively debate about the future of their favorite hip hop artist and/or NBA team. Finally, we edit, and I’m able to put to work my extensive knowledge of comma rules, syntax and usage — my sole marketable skill.

7 p.m. — I start getting a little hungry, but I don’t like leaving the office for dinner, so I scavenge. There are usually M&M’s at the front of the office, so I check there first. In moments of weakness, I succumb to the allure of the reasonably priced snacks in the office vending machine and purchase a honey bun. When I feel health-conscious, I forgo the frosted honey bun for the classic. In rare fits of adult behavior, I’ll make myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Back to work.

8 p.m. — I begin avoiding eye contact with the copy editors. At this point, it’s clear we won’t be hitting our 9 p.m. deadline. They’re sweet people, and I’ve let them down. Tonight, we’re having trouble finding a government document that conclusively states the board’s opinion is right and all others are wrong. It’s harder than you’d think.

9 p.m. — Stacy Wynn, the production manager, arrives to begin putting the finishing touches on pages. We discuss the next day’s cartoon and the many idiosyncrasies of the office scanner.

9:30 p.m. — “Are letters done?” They are. I pack my bags and wave a guilty goodbye to management and the copy editors. They’ve got at least three more hours left in the office.

10 p.m. and after — Home, or, if I’m feeling ambitious, the library. I eat a bowl of cereal and send a few texts to non-DTH friends to remind them I exist.

Thanks for reading.

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