A thousand deadlines…

And still trying to figure it all out

By Zach Hagadone
Reader Staff

As Reader Publisher Ben Olson pointed out in his “Dear Readers” column last week, I celebrated something of a milestone on June 14: My 1,000th deadline. That was an approximation, of course, cobbled together as my best estimate in a fit of exhausted idleness and based on the rumination that this summer marks the 20th anniversary of when two college classmates and I had the crazy idea to start a little arts-and-entertainment weekly called the Sandpoint Reader. 

I remember well that we spent the summer and fall of that year plotting, planning and establishing the paper and, when it finally hit the streets as Vol. 1 No. 1 on Dec. 23, 2004, we enjoyed about an hour or so of jubilation before realizing we had to do it all over again during the course of the following seven days. Thus began the cyclical grind that has dictated my life for the past 19-ish years.

In an effort at accuracy, I sat down on a recent Friday morning and actually crunched the numbers — as near as I could, looking back over old calendars — and it turns out that I’ve actually overshot the 1,000 mark by at least 25 weeks at various papers in various places, and frequently doubling up on deadlines between the Reader and wherever I happened to be working at the time.

By the time my wife, two kids and I came home to Sandpoint in June 2019, I’d hit something like 821 cumulative weekly deadlines at the Reader, Idaho Business Review, Boise Weekly and Inlander. Since then, I’ve logged exactly 204 deadline Wednesdays at the Reader (not counting this one, because for me it hasn’t happened yet), amounting to the current approximate total as of this writing.

None of that counts my time as a Daily Bee copy editor, cartoonist and sometimes correspondent off and on from spring-ish 1999 to summer-ish 2000 (and as the worst ad salesperson ever at the Bee for a few months in spring-summer 2004), nor my monthly deadlines as a student journalist at then-Albertson College of Idaho, nor my twice-weekly deadlines as an Associated Press weekend staffer in Boise for nine months in 2003, nor my occasional quarterly deadlines for Sandpoint Magazine over the years.

Who knows what the actual total is, and who cares? That this mental exercise (OK, call it navel gazing) makes me feel old and tired before my time is a grand understatement, and should not be taken for an attempt to claim bragging rights.

Daily newspaper and online journalists have many, many more deadlines under their belts. Yet here I am — just shy of 20 years since the idea of the Reader was hatched in a drunken conversation at the end of a dock in McCall — with enough weekly deadlines in my tally to represent about 7,000 days of my life (meanwhile, in late September, I will be 15,695 days old, making that former figure chillingly close to half the latter).

What does it all mean? Nothing, really. There’s this silly notion that 10,000 hours of practice will make you an expert at anything. Assuming I worked 40 hours for every one of those deadlines, I should be an “expert” in whatever I’ve been up to in this business more than four times over. I don’t feel that way.

As the deadlines pile up, I find myself failing with increasing frequency to understand just what the hell is going on around here. 

A sizable portion of our population thinks libraries are porn shops, schools are reeducation camps and rainbows on beer cans are the first shot in a second American Revolution; having relevant qualifications is apparently no longer a qualification for getting a government job, so long as you’re partisan enough to gain the blessing of The Party… which is the same Party that proclaims to defend individual rights while stripping individual rights from more than half the people in the country and demanding absolute obedience to its agenda; all of a sudden the federal government just stopped protecting wetlands because some people in Priest Lake wanted to build a house on them; it’s a brain-exploding irony that babies can’t be born in Bonner County because certain creepy misogynist authoritarians are so morbidly obsessed with other people’s reproduction that no sane health care provider wants to touch Idaho with a rented stethoscope; we have lawmakers in Boise who openly express their hatred of democracy; and somehow shitbox houses still start at half-a-million bucks.

So consider this a confession: Regardless of what some people might say, write or think, there is no “cabal” of insider “media” fixers with their hands on the levers of politics and culture. If there was, I certainly would have caught wind of it at some point over those 1,000-plus weeks. Nope, especially among local news reporters, we’re just a bunch of people trying as best as we can to figure out what’s happening and telling our neighbors about it — and, a lot of times, we’re just as confused about it as you are.

While we have you ...

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