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From the editor: A busy Wednesday

From the editor: A busy Wednesday


I knew Wednesday was going to be busy.

First, it’s deadline day … the day we proof the pages, make changes and approve them before they’re printed.

Second, I had a 2:40 p.m. DMV appointment in Santa Rosa to renew my license, which was going to expire on Friday.

Third, my calendar listed an event at 6 p.m. dealing with shelters and evacuations at Grace Episcopal Church.

That wasn’t the half of it.

A week ago, I had ridden my bike with Rob and Brett, who mentioned Crush Challenge, the ride ZD Wines puts on each year to raise funds for cancer research. I was directed to Dustin, whom I know and who works for ZD Wines. Dustin said he’d call me at 9 a.m., because he had meetings beginning at 9:30 a.m. I hoped it was a short call, because I was on deadline (didn’t he know that? I thought so, because I told him that in an email).

When I got to work — it’s roughly an hour from my home in Hidden Valley Lake to St. Helena, whether or not I stop for coffee at Cal Mart in Calistoga — I looked at the paperwork from the DMV. I had made an appointment, but it also said I had to fill out some forms online. Shoot, I’d have to find time to do that before my appointment.

Jesse had gone to a St. Helena City Council meeting the night before and I needed to read his story, add it to the story budget and then send that budget to our page designers in Madison. Our story budget tells them what stories we have and what pages they should be on. They cannot design the pages without the budget, although they had a preliminary budget from Tuesday afternoon, so they could design the second section and the editorial page.

The phone rang. It was Mariam Hansen, asking if she could get a story in this week’s paper. Nope, I said, it was too late and the deadline for stories is 5 p.m. Monday. She knew that, she just wanted to know if I had space on an inside page for a story about an upcoming event. I didn’t and we agreed the story could run in next week’s paper. Hansen is a freelancer for the Star as well as the research director for the St. Helena Historical Society.

Life in the newspaper business is sometimes very busy, with people sending you emails, calling on the phone and wanting to get this or that in the paper and online. I don’t mind this. News, community events and local happenings are the essence of local journalism.

I fired up the computer, opened Chrome and got to the DMV website to fill out the application. First, though, I had to create an account through a DMV vendor and it needed a password. Shoot, what a hassle.

On the form, I filled out my name, address, birthdate and then I was faced with choices: weight (190), color of eyes (blue) and color of hair. “Cynthia, is my hair still blonde?” Cynthia Sweeney is the editor of the Calistogan, who works in our offices on Wednesdays, proofing pages for the Calistogan. Her reply: “It’s gray. You could say it’s blonde, but it’s not.”

OK, gray.

I finished filling out the form, checking it and printed the final page, the one that had the DMV code on it.

Finally, I was able to proof the pages, with help, as always, from Jesse. Laura Nolan works at the Regional Design Center in Madison. She joins a number of other designers there – they build pages for a lot of daily and weekly newspapers owned by Lee Enterprises, including the Napa Valley Register and The Weekly Calistogan. Nolan is our usual page designer and we communicate via Cisco Jabber. We see our pages on a certain website, download them, print them out, make corrections, send those corrected pages back to Madison, so they can be sent to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, which owns a printing plant in Rohnert Park. Our deadline is 12:15 p.m. It’s pretty strict and so far, knock on wood, we’ve made the deadline every week.

Looking at my email at some point on Wednesday morning, I got a note from Napa Valley Register editor Sean Scully, who said the corporate news guys were going to be in Napa later that day. It would be good to be in the newsroom, to hear what they had to say, but I had to beg off because of my DMV appointment.

In between proofing the pages — they don’t all come at once, but one at a time over several hours – I had to create a news budget for the Star that would come out the next week and meet with Jesse and Cynthia to discuss what we’d put in the paper.

Google Maps said it would take me 46 minutes from St. Helena to the DMV office on Corby Lane in Santa Rosa. I left to drive over there.

Remember that form I had to fill out online? Filling it out and having an appointment at the DMV saved me a bunch of time – I renewed my license in just 20 minutes, dealt with four nice employees and got out of there lickety-split.

It took me much longer to drive to Santa Rosa from St. Helena than it did to renew my license, which was somewhat surprising. On that particular Wednesday afternoon, there were many people at the Santa Rosa DMV office, but there were also many employees and, for me, the waiting was minimal.

Recently, at home, we had a woodstove taken out of our house and we’re looking for ceramic tile to cover the hole in the floor where the woodstove and hearth used to be. Last Sunday, we went looking for tile in Santa Rosa, only to discover all the tile stores are closed on Sunday.

So on Wednesday afternoon I called my wife, Joni, to find the name and address of a certain tile store on Santa Rosa Avenue. I went there and talked with one of their sales people and after more than an hour – we spent time looking for a specific tile and a corresponding tile border to go around the tile, but we didn’t find it – I took two pieces of ceramic tile home to see if they’d work.

I had dreams of getting back to the office, maybe attending an event at Grace Church at 6 p.m. or heading down to Napa to hear the newspaper execs talk about what we’re supposed to be doing. Nope. Didn’t happen.

It was late enough in the afternoon that I ran into commuter traffic, including at the intersection of Petrified Forest Road and Foothill Boulevard near Calistoga. I never knew it was that bad. But as I headed home, I was glad to be done with one busy day.

No wonder I was tired that night … and promptly fell asleep in my chair, watching something on TV.


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St. Helena Star Editor

David Stoneberg is the editor of the St. Helena Star, an award-winning weekly newspaper. Prior to joining the Star in 2006, he worked for the Lake County Record-Bee, the Clear Lake Observer American, the Middletown Times Star and The Weekly Calistogan.

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