Can’t Help but Be a Newsroom Nomad

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley


Taken this weekend at a stop light in front of The Miami Herald building.

When I had my first internship at The Holliston TAB in high school, I wondered where I’d sit. There were some open cubicles, but they were piled high with papers and books, and there didn’t seem to be enough room for another body to creep its way into the cubicle’s confines. My editor told me I’d probably have to move around a little bit, and he was right. I called myself the “newsroom nomad,” the writer who didn’t have a fixed spot, but who roamed around the newsroom, in search of a place to rest my steno pad. As time grew and I moved to other newsrooms, I found my place, in more ways than one. I remember my excitement at having an actual desk (and my own phone!) at the other papers where I interned. When I freelanced for papers, I would return to my nomad status, usually filing stories either from home, or late at night from some other reporters’ cubicle.

But being a nomad isn’t so bad — especially when you’re a reporter. It’s fun to explore new places and meet new people. I like roaming around main streets and seeing the tourist attractions and then stepping onto side streets, where I find some of the most interesting people and stories. And I love looking at different newsrooms, even if it’s just the outside of them. (This might explain why I often roam around the newsroom/office when I need a break from writing.) In the past week, I’ve been lucky enough to travel to New Orleans and Miami, where I’ve made special trips to see the outside of TheTimes-Picayune and The Miami Herald newsrooms. There’s something exciting about being near the presence of news and holding onto the hope that you’ll catch a glimpse, or actually meet, the people who give it life.

I try to keep this life alive by picking up papers wherever I go, to see their layout and design, their style of writing, their range of stories. They’re the best, cheapest souvenirs you can buy, rough drafts of history documenting the day you visited a particular city. For the sake of sentimentality and the love of newspapers, I can’t throw the bulky things away. The second drawer to my dresser is filled with newspapers. As for when, or if, I’ll get rid of them, I can’t be sure, so for now they’re staying put.

The pile in my drawer reminds me of the piles of newspapers in newsrooms, the ones that are replenished every day, and the ones that reporters keep under their cubicles or next to their chair. These are the piles that surrounded me during my newsroom nomad days. But I suppose sitting next to newspapers beats sitting next to the bathroom. When you’re first starting out, you never know exactly where you’re going to land in the newsroom. I’m still a young’un, but I’m guessing you eventually find where you belong.

Do you have any newsroom nomad stories? What do you think about visiting newsrooms/saving papers?