Erick Peterson

Erick Peterson

My minutes are numbered, and I have to work fast.

More than a month ago, I took a very good job. As editor and senior reporter of the Hermiston Herald, I get to meet people, learn about them and tell their stories. It is work that has put me in touch with artists, politicians and workers of every stripe. As COVID-19 remains the biggest story each week, I have spoken with many afflicted people, as well as the medical professionals who treat them. During this time, I have also been able to meet athletes, students, teachers, police officers and more.

I have told many stories, and I know there are many more to tell. One person, just this past week, wrote a letter offering one suggestion. She wants me to write about people’s bad driving. She has noticed many drivers crossing multiple lanes when turning onto a street. Instead, they should be turning into one lane and then transitioning into another lane.

Her gripe is justified. And I would write about it if I were not sometimes guilty of it. Also, there are restrictions, which I will write more about in a second.

Another person came into my office and asked me to cover Hermiston school board meetings. It was a reasonable request, which I followed up on by viewing a meeting this week.

Several people have requested other stories, by Facebook Messenger, email, phone and in person. I have written some of their stories and I have made plans to write others.

I reject few story ideas, because everyone is valued and their experiences are valuable. It pains me to not write a story once the idea is in front of me, but there are reasons I do. The reasons are as follows: space and time (mostly time, which I personify as “The Clock”).

1) Space. As I am writing this column, I know the number of pages available to me in the paper. This paper is 14 pages. Three of the pages are classified ads, holy and untouchable to me. This leaves 11 pages, but not even that space is all for me. Other writers contribute to this paper. Once I place their work, and account for the advertisements, I have even less space for my writing.

I also have a rough idea of the amount of space I am limited to write this column. Above, below and to the sides, there is other work. One editorial provides a major message of this paper. My favorite piece here is from award-winning columnist Tammy Malgesini. I look forward to her column every month.

2) The Clock. This is the one that gets me — The Clock, which marks my minutes. Unheard but felt, in the throbbing veins at my temples, The Clock spells the eventual end to my work as the editor of this paper.

Just as every newspaper has a deadline, my position here too has a conclusion. Someday, I will quit, retire or get fired. Maybe, I will die while working at this job, behind the desk that I am now standing behind. This may be my last sentence...

Or not.

My point is, I do not know the time or the reason for the end, just that it is coming. Every day, it nears. This fear causes me to work harder to write the things that matter most to me and the things that may mean the most to you.

I type this week’s column as a response to my bosses, who asked me to write a column about the sort of editor I wish to be for this area. My answer to them, and to readers, is I am an editor and a writer who feels the pain of a deadline. I hope to write every story at least once, perhaps more, if The Clock allows.

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Erick Peterson is the editor and senior reporter of the Hermiston Herald.

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