Freedom: The full horror of understanding

I definitely benefitted from the way Freedom's old collective wound itself down. Although I was thrown in at the deep end, I was at least able to observe for a while how people were working, find out who at least some of the writers were and talk to everyone about where the paper should be going*. It was massively helpful that John held on for as long as he did while I sorted out my personal timetable and what direction I wanted to take Freedom in.

However, the sheer complexity of running a newspaper took a long time to become something I did as a matter of course, let alone something I would be able to move in a particular direction.

In an average issue, the word count is between 10-12,000 words, with pictures, standfirsts, headlines, listings etc to be sorted, writers to be contacted and edited when their work comes in, correspondence on a huge range of issues to be done. This last was made more difficult as emails and letters remained largely untouched between T leaving and me, for the most part, not knowing who was who or what had gone before or even that I needed to reply for the first few months.

There were deadlines. Operating from Ipswich has been a nightmare organisationally. The technology is the only thing which allows us to operate at all, but it is a singularly inadequate tool for proper communications. Even if I sent in an email with everything on, J, who was doing the page layout and design (the current layout is a combination of hers and Clifford Harper's work) might not get it, or something would go missing or forgotten, and if she was unable to get hold of me for whetever reason, she would be stuck - in a way that would not happen face-to-face on the Sundays. Any glitch towards the deadline could be fatal, and often was.

This physical distance of course was also making life difficult in further recruitment, as a London-based paper expects a London-based staff. People could come in and ask about helping, and it might be another month before I would be down in London to talk to them. Thus the only regular correspondents the paper now has are by necessity well-acquainted with the internet.

This has been exacerbated by the horrendously tight nature of the deadlines themselves. Due to other committments (not least to my long-suffering best-friend/partner), I was only able to work one week in two, so this dissertation-length monstrosity had a seven day turnaround. I work in the day, so that reduces to a two day, five evening turnaround, assuming nothing crops up. Finally, I am a journalist, so assiduously I decided that the first four pages should be news - not just repeating the words of others or commenting on what has already been reported, but finding the obscure, the important, and actively researching it where possible.

The result was a nightmare, one which for the first few months came close to breaking me entirely - I certainly had more than one physical breakdown (though my mental health remained entirely intact, amazingly enough - the resilience of youth I suppose). I was warned time and time again by friends and family to cool it or risk burnout, but what choice was there? Abandoning the paper wasn't an option...

NOTE: This will be continued another time.

*Bear in mind my politics, whilst veering towards class-based, were very much those of a left-liberal at this point. I had read and liked Kropotkin, and some of the Anarchist FAQ, but I had only a vague idea of what I wanted to see happen in society. Days before I started, when a guy commented of about a bunch of SolFed pamphlets I was handing out 'you're a syndicalist then?', I'd had to shamefacedly admit I had no idea what they were talking about.

Posted By

Rob Ray
Oct 10 2006 11:35


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