The Gray Line Tour

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 24, 2001


Visiting big sister in New Iberia It’s always a bit of an adventure to me, traveling to a relatively strange town for a few days, dropping into it, as it were, and mucking my way around the place. This week, I was asked to spend four days at one of L’Observateur’s sister newspapers, located in New Iberia. I had been to that city once, several years ago, and enjoyed the experience. My task here involved picking the brains and experience of my betters, hoping to avoid a few pitfalls in my own job and becoming much better at what I do around this newspaper office. One can only hope, and there’s certainly room for improvement. Much of my time here involved being a fly on the wall, observing, listening and hopefully learning. Much of it involved interviewing people in several departments, from advertising to reporters to pressmen. It’s always an enjoyable experience for me to see how other people do things and perhaps come away with a few tips on how to do my own job faster, more efficiently and more enjoyably. In an ideal situation, one can also enjoy his work. It was also interesting in the fact that this newspaper, the Daily Iberian, is a daily newspaper. In my 30-year career, I’ve never worked at a daily, and I was fascinated as to how everything was coordinated and managed, day after day, sticking to deadlines and getting the job done. While in New Iberia, I stayed in a pretty good hotel on the edge of town, near U.S. Highway 90. Soon after my arrival, I scouted out the directions I had previously been given to the newspaper office. This gave me a sound knowledge of three streets. On the second evening, while in search of a restaurant, I got lost. Getting lost in a strange town is quite an adventure in itself. One soon makes discoveries, good and bad. While I expanded my knowledge of the town and located some places for possible future reference, I also discovered the proliferation of one-way streets. Fortunately, I didn’t fall astray of the law while bashing around dark and lonely byways, patiently in search of a landmark or familiar street name. The people at the Daily Iberian were friendly, open and generous with their advice and suggestions, neither dictating nor embarrassing. I did at times feel like a fifth wheel, rattling around the office and trying not to annoy anyone, but I was made welcome everywhere and soon got over my initial shyness. Don’t laugh. Yes, I can be shy. One afternoon, I took a couple of hours to look around the town and do a bit of shopping and sightseeing. I skipped The Shadows-on-the-Teche plantation house but did explore the old downtown district. In one bookstore, I stumbled across some books which I had been seeking for 30 years, all at a bargain price. After a quick cellular-phone consultation with my frugal, yet patient, wife, I bought them all at a shot and, as it turned out, got a real bargain. I checked in with my managing editor and sportswriter back home to answer questions, especially regarding things I should have done before leaving (including writing a column for today’s edition). I found I missed the folks back home at L’Observateur. After this week’s education, I’m coming home cranked up and ready to organize myself and the operation of the news department and to do a better job than I have done. Seeing how a daily newspaper staff keeps personal accountability as one of its highest priorities inspires me to do my own job better and hopefully pass along that inspiration to the rest of the staff. Wish us luck, for as we work to improve the operation of L’Observateur, the readers and advertisers will benefit by our efforts. In a postscript, as I’m writing this column in the Daily Iberian newsroom early Wednesday afternoon, I’m in receipt of a fax informing me L’Observateur has placed in the Louisiana Press Association awards 24 times. That means the paper will receive a total of 24 awards, from first place to honorable mention, at the awards luncheon next month. To me, that’s wonderful news. However, it must be a challenge for me to improve on that for next year’s awards. While I feel assured it’s not 24 honorable mentions, I’m quite aware it’s not 24 first-place awards. It’s something to shoot for; and hopefully, next year will be better. This visit to L’Observateur’s sister newspaper has been fun and educational. I enjoyed the company of the staff and relished the experience. This was something I sorely needed, as I hope I can measure up to the company’s trust in me to do this job. I can’t wait to get back. LEONARD GRAY is assistant managing editor of L’Observateur.