Email is not a time-saver, but I'm happily addicted
I remember the days before email gained popularity. In the newspaper world, that meant we got information in varying forms, from hand-written to neatly typed. Each piece of information had to be manually entered into our system before it could be printed.
When it got so almost everyone was using email, I foolishly thought life would become so much easier and we could do our work much more quickly. That was true up to a point.
As the information became easier to transmit to us, it grew exponentially. Yes, it is faster to edit copy that has been sent electronically, but the sheer volume of it it as a level it takes hours just to handle.
Each weekday, I get between 200-300 emails that aren’t directed to a spam folder, meaning each has to be dealt with on some level. Many are forwarded to other areas of the newsroom — sports, arts and entertainment, lifestyles or are for the Biltmore Beacon, the weekly Asheville publication we home deliver to residents of all the Biltmore communities.
These days, many emails are from politicians or political parties — items I scan quickly to see if the need to be filed or round-filed. There’s news about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Blue Ridge Parkway, Harrah’s Cherokee Casino, the French Broad and Pigeon rivers, Pisgah National Forest and the N.C. Arboretum. We get notices about students at college, those in the military, businesses both local and national and letters from readers.
In addition to the paid service that provides opinion pieces written by the statewide columnists that are posted regularly on our website, there are a number of research pieces from think tank organizations such as Civitas or John Locke Foundation, both of which are conservative organizations, or Progressive Pulse and NC Policy Watch, which are at the opposite end of the spectrum.
There are studies sent on all sorts of medical conditions, recipes, free-lancers wanting to sign newspapers up to buy their cartoons or columns and the list goes on.
I take a few moments to at least glance through them all. I particularly enjoy reading the minutes of meetings taken by Waynesville Town Clerk Phyllis McClure and Maggie Valley Town Clerk Vickie Best. Both provide extremely detailed accounts of what has happened during town-related meetings. I feel like I’ve been in the room after reading their minutes.
It is easy to get sidetracked skimming information here, reading entire pieces there, but I find the information more than useful.
Some of issues that come through my email end up as leads for local stories. Others can help shore up editorial positions the newspaper takes and still others simply contain information that’s just plain interesting to know.
Just this week, I learned about the top 10 "hard-to-fill jobs" in the current economy, seven of which don’t require a four-year college education. They include skilled trades, engineer, IT staff, sales representatives, accounting and finance staff, drivers, mechanics, nurses, machinists/machine operators and teachers.
I was also fascinated by a study showing the newest FDA-approved diet pill, Qnexa, is known to cause heart palpitations, similar to the drug banned in the 1990s, Fen-Pfen. Most interesting of all, however, was a study finding that the lack of exercise kills as many people worldwide as tobacco.
Even on the weekends, I can’t resist checking the steady stream of email. I feel like I’ve become addicted to the endless stream of information that crosses my path in cyberspace, but it is a happy addiction. The task often keeps me up at all hours of the night. It's a good thing I've reached the age where sleep is generally elusive anyway.