A day in our newsroom

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  • May 06,2016
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“Where are your drafts!” shouts Khash, one of our editors, at exactly 12:46 p.m. The newsroom is suddenly filled with silence, only broken by typing sounds on old computer keyboards, getting louder as everyone tries to make their half-page-by-1:00 p.m. deadline. If I were always as productive as I was in those 14 minutes, I'd have already become the youngest billionaire in Mongolia. You know who is almost always as productive? The woman sitting two desks ahead of me: Khaliun. Each staff member at The UB Post staff has dedicated pages to finish before 5:00 p.m., and Khaliun does our Business and Economics page. If she ever “makes time to be unproductive”, it’s probably to catch a breath from juggling beinа a graduate student, a journalist, a mother, and a wife. I see her rushing to Muugii’s office, one of our photographers, asking for a picture of some business forum. Of course, she had already sub- mitted her drafts way before Khash ever shouted for them. Khash-Erdene, who loves to introduce himself by the name “Cash” - as it is easy to remember, is quite the character. Actually, it would be some kind of a fantasy novel if an editor didn’t have some character. I have to deal with him and he has to deal with me; maybe not one of the best combinations, but certainly not the worst either. Apart from mastering the art of drawing and playing guitar, he is a master at making me understand how gullible and illogical I am. That’s a part of what he’s paid to do anyway. I’m wrapping up a story about a demonstration. Three hours ago, the staff had a short meeting and discussed news to be included in today’s issue. I had an environmental rehabilitation class from 7:40 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. today and missed the meeting. I got off early from class and decided to make a run for the 11:00 a.m. press conference being held at the Mongol News press conference hall. I hear it’s an announcement from a movement saying that the increase in poverty and unemployment in recent months has led them to demonstrate. I start to wonder what it is they want to achieve through this demonstration, and what they’ll suggest for solutions. As much as I’m annoyed by these people who seem to complain but fail to acknowledge the opportunities out there, I have to love them for giving me news on a “slow news day” like today. Most Thursdays are very ”fast” news days, and I write two or three articles the previous day so that in the two hours that I have before 1:00 p.m., I’m not in a rush. Today is not one of those days, and I am kind of required to cram. Dariya, our Politics journalist and Associate Editor, asks us what stories we currently have. As the issue manager and Associate Editor, Dariya constantly communicates with all journalists to keep track of what's being included in the issue. Dariya sums up all the articles we have and consults Ulziisaikhan (Ulzii), our Editor-in-Chief, about choosing the main article for the front page. When we're writing Feature or Editorial pieces, we often seek advice on structure and content from her. I finished my front page article the previous day. Dulguun probably finished all of her stuff the night before or this morning. Dulguun, a college student, translates a Prime Interview, Feature, or Editorial page story for every issue. She is one of the most hard-working people I have ever met, even after meeting so many successful people through my work at The UB Post. I don’t know how she does it. Tungaa, our Sports and Entertainments journalist, tells me about the article she's working on, which is a story about the judo event that she went to yesterday. She's searching for more news and events to put on the Sports and Entertainment page. I wish I had worked here when The UB Post was released only once or twice a week. There were some big stories, like big corruption cases, Camerton receiving a letter from Boys II Men, and Mongolia winning three Olympic medals in one week. There’s no way one would ever run out of news unless it was a slow news week or something. On the other hand, The UB Post has a big advantage over daily newspapers, as we're given more time to research stories to write a more fact-based and balanced article. With our new website we're experimenting with publishing one or two articles every day, instead of following the newspaper's schedule of publishing stories three days a week. Luckily for Tungaa, another one of our photographers, Khartsaga, comes in with some sports news concerning bowling. Khartsaga’s name directly translates to “Hawk”, and I believe it is very appropriate, as his photographs are very sharp and focused. Shortly after the 1:00 p.m. deadline, some of us decide to go out for lunch and enjoy coffee or an actual meal. Usually, Khash starts asking people to eat and everyone starts talking about food: new deals, new restaurants, coffee shops, and some recipes they have tried. Although everyone’s stomach juices are flowing by now, only a few are privileged enough to have more than 20 minutes to spare for lunch. I tell Khaliun that I’ll be giving her a piece on the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) monthly meeting, so she decides to go out for lunch. I can’t start writing until I see my notes from the meeting. “It’s just the season,” I tell myself. It’s nice how we as a society agree to blame the Spring season for all of our absent mindedness, or for random panic attacks. Once or twice last year, my macroeconomics teacher told us that she hadn’t checked our tests because: “it’s the season”. It’s funny, I’m sure there’s some scientific evidence that Spring makes you light-headed. Though right now, it’s probably because I've had a total of 20 hours of sleep in the last week thanks to tests, assignments, and essays, as well as an Ecology Olympiad next Saturday. Otgoo from our marketing and advertisement department comes in and informs me that I have one 1/4 page advertisement, as well as two 1/8 page advertisements on my page. Having done half a page already, I relax and try to concentrate on the article I'm writing. I suddenly remember that the AmCham is hosting a networking night at 6:30 p.m. I finish the article at about 3:18 p.m. I start searching local news sites for domestic news stories, and still no significant articles have been published. I decide to go to the Mongolian Union of Artists’ Gallery instead of waiting. I take photos of my favorite pieces in the exhibition and walk back to work with a cup of coffee in my hand. I shuffle words in my head to come up with ways to describe the exhibition I just saw. Joint exhibitions are hard to cover, as the artists do not stay at the gallery to chat about their artwork and I usually leave the gallery without quotes from the artists. I get back to the office at approximately 4:00 p.m. Dariya is interviewing someone from the theater. One of the perks of being a journalist is that you can talk to anyone you would like to if you’re brave enough. Dariya is one of the bravest people in terms of this, as this guy is one of the most well known actors in Mongolia. He’s sitting in our office with a casual, content look, and I can’t remember his name. While blaming Spring for why I can’t remember the guy’s name, Otgoo comes in to tell me that one 1/8 ad has been dropped. With it, so has my heart. At 4:30 p.m. I quickly finish my article about the exhibition and start rummaging through yesterday’s papers. I run to Unuudur’s newsroom to ask the investigative department if there’s anything juicy. I visit the Ulaanbaatar Mayor’s Office website, and luckily, I find one story about an interesting decree that was issued today and one other story that needs further development. Dariya likes the news of the new decree, but thinks the other story doesn't stand out as newsworthy. I gather more history and background about the decree and submit a final draft of the article for an edit. I ask Sarnai, or "Rose" as I like to call her, for pictures to accompany two articles. She puts them on our server, which my computer isn’t able to connect to for some reason. I go to Baaska, our designer, and we try to choose the best photo for the layout, and then I send the final edits of my stories in to Baaska. While putting together the layout, I basically rant and laugh about all the stories I considered funny or kind of traumatic. I love this exchange with her, as I barely acknowledge her arrival at the office while I’m trying to meet my deadlines. She has some of the best reactions when I tell her stories. By now, it’s 5:26 p.m. and my Domestic page is ready with edited articles, photos, and captions. I receive an email from Michelle, our editor who works from Darkhan, which reads that my Arts page story will be edited after two articles are finished. In my opinion, the job of an editor is a job for a strong individual. They have to check spelling, grammar, structural errors, and fact-check the articles of the pages they're assigned to edit within a very short period of time. I think it is especially hard for Michelle, who has to understand content through language barriers and comprehend translation errors. While waiting for the edit, I ask Lucy - our new intern from the UK who has been writing stories for the Arts page - about what exhibition she plans to cover next. The UB Post works with approximately 15 Mongolian and foreign interns each year, and we've had seven since the start of 2016. I tell Lucy she should visit the Fine Arts Zanabazar Museum, where artwork by Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali is being presented. I'm glad the Fine Arts Zanabazar Museum took the initiative to present the travelling exhibition. The edit arrives, with changes marked in red. I thank Microsoft for developing such a wonderful tool, being able to compare, track changes, and review comments to help improve your writing. Looking at the edit, I realize that I made some mistakes that could've easily been avoided if I reviewed The UB Post Style Guide, a set of rules for writing style and format for the newspaper. Baaska puts down the art layout. Usually while waiting on the edit, we play darts or cards, gossip about news, and Khash plays guitar if he’s not too busy. Today, I prepare for my interview with Gunter Pauli, who has been named "The Steve Jobs of Sustainability" by the Tasmanian Times. He's visiting Mongolia in about a week. When my work is finished for the next day's issue, I leave for a networking night that I'll be writ- ing a story about for our next issue. Sure, the job of a journalist is not a piece of cake. Especially if you struggle with meeting deadlines and having someone constantly pointing out your mistakes on a daily basis. Imagine what that's like when you're also studying full time. But I would sacrifice my comfort every time if there was a guarantee that no day would be like the one before. Instead of a 9-to-5 job, I meet many people from various fields, share and exchange views about whatever we're passionate about, and it's exciting to be the first person to hear something and then be able to share it with our readers. Working for the most prolific English language newspaper in Mongolia is an honor, which I take pride in every time I'm welcomed by people after being introduced as a UB Post journalist. The UB Post newsroom is an unusually energetic place filled with eccentric individuals. I am always looking forward to the next day. It’s such a blessing to be working with such amazing individuals in this organization with a 20-year history. Happy 20th birthday, UB Post!