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Hold the front page

Thirty years ago today was the first day I laid out page 1 at the newspaper where I worked. I had been doing inside pages for months—selecting the stories, editing them as needed, and designing the page. But doing page 1 was special.

I got my other pages out of the way fast so I'd be able to put together a good front page. I would have been done about a half-hour early, but we were holding the page to await the story about whether the space shuttle Challenger would take off or not because of the weather. I had left space for a headline, a photo and the story at the top of the page. I even had the headlines written: "Challenger grounded" or "Challenger launches."

Then somebody came running into the newsroom from the advertising department: "The space shuttle exploded!"

In times like that, the Associated Press moves fragments of the stories in bursts: A first paragraph, then two or three additional paragraphs, then more. The page editor needs to move quickly and make sure the pieces are assembled in the right order. The story changes almost as quickly as it happens. The AP will move paragraphs to replace ones it already sent. History moves in fits and starts, in bits and pieces.

The editor—quite rightly—pulled me off the page 1 desk and moved in our most experienced page designer. I stood by and watched as he did a masterly layout job under immense deadline pressure. It wasn't until I went home and saw the TV news that I got an idea of just what it must have been to be watching the launch live.

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March 2017

Wish I'd Said It

Nota bene: “Fear has governed my life, if I think about it. ... I always feel like I’m not good enough for some reason. I wish that wasn’t the case, but left to my own devices, that voice starts speaking up.” – Trent Reznor

“I hate to say this, but not many people care what you do. They care about what you do as much as you care about what they do. Think about it. Just exactly that much. You are not the center of the universe.” — Laurie Anderson

"The path's not yours till you've gone it alone a time." – William Carlos Williams

“Filling this empty space constitutes my identity.” – Twyla Tharp

"My definition of peace is having no noise in my head." – Eric Clapton

"The wreckage of the sky serves to confirm us in delicious error." – John Ashbery

"We are all here by the grace of the big bang. We are all literally the stuff of the stars." – Dwight Owsley

"For my part, I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of stars makes me dream." – Vincent van Gogh

"It is only with the heart that one can see right; what is essential is invisible to the eye." — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

"Forget about being a perfectionist, because entropy always wins out in the end." – Darren Kaufman.

"Impermanence. Impermanence. Impermanence." – Garry Shandling

"Fame is a vapor; popularity an accident; the only earthly certainty is oblivion." – Mark Twain

"There is no realm wherein we have the truth." – Gordon Lish

"Actual life is full of false clues and sign-posts that lead nowhere." – E.M. Forster

“Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe." – Frank Zappa

“I try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.” – Elmore Leonard

“The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.” – Voltaire

• Journal title and subtitle: Ian Hunter, “Man Overboard”


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