Griscom: Things to do - or avoid

Griscom: Things to do - or avoid

June 20th, 2010 by Tom Griscom in Opinion Columns

At certain times in life, the question arises as to whether a bucket list exists.

For those who may not understand the term, the reference is to things to do or be completed before a person kicks the bucket or passes on.

The list may be worked on over the decades, but there is a sense of rushing to fill in the blanks when an event approaches with a feeling of finality.

With that in mind, let's construct a bucket list for someone who is stepping away from the daily routine of publishing the newspaper in his hometown.

Almost 11 years of experiences are helpful in the process, but in this instance, the list includes items not to do as well as those that have been done.

There is no exact number for a bucket list, leaving room for new additions.

No. 1: Disable the spell check and watch the grammar.

One of the most aggravating occurrences in publishing is the appearance of a misspelled word or the correct spelling of the wrong word out of context. Even after sets of eyeballs scan proof pages prior to publication, wrong words still appear. The journalist with soulful eyes will plead that before the story was forwarded to an editor, he or she spell-checked the copy. The desk editor and the copy editor also state that the story was scanned with real eyes and, of course, the spell check was used, as if that makes everything correct. The mechanical tool or spell check results in the publication of the word "public" with a missing letter for all to see and read the next day.

Ban or disable the spell check so at least the mistakes are human ones.

No. 2: Define and practice the word TEAM.

The natural tendency is to go it alone. When you publish a small book every day, there are a lot of moving parts that require people to work together. Few people are able to be one-person bands, simultaneously leading and implementing. The skills required to meet the challenges in the 21st century work force are many. Downsizing that has been the hallmark of the past 18 months forces retraining, rethinking and multitasking. For every journalist, there is a commitment to put more tools in the tool bag. With some degrees of difference, journalists at the Times Free Press develop content with words, pictures, sound and video. In serving the reader now and in the future, offering information accessible on multiple platforms is essential.

No. 3: Risks are part of the job.

Some are risk-averse, hoping to read the direction the wind is blowing and adapt to it. Those people will be left behind. Success is in prudent risks, being willing to test conventional wisdom and move outside one's comfort zone. Earlier in the decade, the notion of video production in a newspaper newsroom would have produced curious looks and would have challenged the traditional organizational structure that reinforces thought patterns defined by vertical silos.

No. 4: Be comfortable in your own skin and draw on the experiences of others.

Businesses that succeed over time are those that draw on the wisdom that comes from diverse backgrounds. Putting in the workplace a system of performance reviews so employees know how they are doing and what needs to be done to move ahead is applicable in any business setting. Being able to draw on a range of experiences found in other professional areas opens up potential solutions. Issues that arise in any type of business are not unique. There may have been different approaches to solving issues, but few are without precedent.

No. 5: Mentors are appropriate throughout a career; you never stop learning.

No one should ever believe there is nothing more to learn. Mental growth is not measured by quantity or age. Every day one goal should be to discover something new, perhaps challenging long-held beliefs, and quite often different. That is when one stops asking why and wonders - why not?

No. 6: The choice of words is key.

When your writer chose to step away from the newspaper on June 30, the announcement was "retirement" not "resignation." Each word has different connotations, and the interpretation is in the mind of the reader or listener. There is little room for explanation, and it is interesting to hear some of the ways that words are twisted and turned, devoid of context and in many cases facts as well. These words point to the caution that should be applied in the use of e-mail as the predominant means of quick communication. The interpretation is left to the recipient of the electronic message. An innocuous set of words strung together in a few sentences may take on curious meanings, because not all words carry the same meaning for all people. Speaking in succinct tones removes a measure of the misinterpretation but does require a face-to-face session.

To reach Tom Griscom, call 423-757-6472 or e-mail