I love Fridays.
Friday sucks you in, a temporal destination, a goalpost, an illusory finish line of the workweek. I hate Fridays.
Friday is a destroyer, the marker by which we cheerfully advance our daily and weekly lives while wondering where the time went.
On June 1, 1986 I began work in TV news in Atlanta. Over those nearly 30 years, I’ve celebrated 1552 Fridays.
Most of them were sweet, blessed benchmarks of a workweek successfully concluded. Even the Fridays that led to Saturday workdays and more still had that “Friday” taste.
(One standout exception was Friday March 12, 1993. A day shift routinely vectored toward quitting time — and then I learned I had to spend Friday night in north Georgia because “snow” was expected. I vividly remember my annoyance while riding to Pickens County. The snow turned into an epic weekend-long blizzard, and a remarkable experience.)
Accumulate enough Fridays, and next thing you know they’ll call you “veteran reporter.” It’ll happen in what seems like the wink of an eye.
Thirty years ago at WAGA, I was assigned a desk, a typewriter and one of those telephones with a bunch of buttons that lit up. If I’d asked, they would have also assigned me an ashtray.
My first workday, a Monday, I covered a truck accident on I-285 at ML King Jr. Drive. The photog versed me in the vernacular; 285 was “the perimeter.” One could shorten the other street to “MLK.”
The live truck operator climbed onto the roof of the vehicle and manually pointed a parabolic dish toward a microwave receiving tower. We fed raw video, shot on 3/4″ tape that rolled through a Bible-sized cassette, through the microwave link.
That Monday, I felt very unsteady learning the circuitry of my new big-market job. But that inaugural Friday undoubtedly came with a sense of triumph.
In the ensuing years, I observed the arrival and departure of hundreds of coworkers and competitors. I have to suppress a snort whenever I meet a newcomer; instead, I try to empathize by remembering the vertigo that accompanies a new TV news job in a new town. I move through town now with confidence and experience, though experience can also lead to inertia. Bossfolk are always on the lookout for that.
Newcomers can do some amazing things. Three years into his stint at WXIA, Jeremy Campbell (with Matt Livingston, Erin Gutierrez and Lauren Rudeseal) has produced a very watchable, episodic and eye-opening web-only series about heroin abuse in Atlanta’s upper-income suburbs.
I wish I’d done it. It never occurred to me to even try.
The workweeks fly by in a series of checklists:
- Get up early, brew coffee
- Run four / five miles
- Sort out story ideas while running
- Solve life’s problems while running
- Shower and such
- Fight traffic
- Attend an editorial meeting
- Make phone calls / contacts / appointments to gather material
- Be fair. Keep perspective. Yet make the story sing
- Meet social media obligations
- Eyeball the deadline and arrange logistics accordingly
- Log video, write for TV
- Make homemade / web-based graphics for TV
- Read into a microphone
- (Edit, if you’re a one-man-band, which I’m not. But I do edit occasionally)
- Write material in the TV rundown
- Make the deadline
- Write material on the web template (and respect the fact that this should be higher on the checklist whenever possible)
- Get the story right
- Make contacts for upcoming stories / try to learn stuff nobody else knows
- Deliver a clean, compelling live shot
- Shut down computer and go home
Somewhere on the checklist should be “come up with that amazing episodic webcast.” Even without that, it’s no surprise the Fridays come in rapid succession.
In recent years, I’ve begun to address my conflicts about Friday. Cheery coworkers would say “thank God it’s Friday.” I would cheerily respond: “Yes. Another week closer to death.” I got some strange looks. I mostly don’t say that anymore.
One can update skills and contacts; buy a new wardrobe; stay well-groomed; stay reasonably current on news and culture. But time ruthlessly claims us all, disdaining our weekly triumphs embodied in our short-term celebration of Friday. Before you know it, thirty years have come and gone.
I hate Fridays.