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Editor’s Notebook: Homeless newspaper, please help

Nik Dirga, Sierra Sun

Things have been a little crazier than usual here at the Sierra Sun lately.

In case you haven’t been keeping up, we’re moving house.

In fact, by the time this paper comes out, we have exactly six days to get all of our assorted junk out of our Donner Pass Road digs and leave it spic-and-span for the bank that’s moving in.

Due to assorted delays and writhing tendrils of red tape, we ended up having to partially move out of our old building before our new building was entirely ready. This means that we have become a kind of wandering Bedouin newspaper, working partly out of our old office, and partly from small, vacant units off to the side of our new office.

There was a brief scare that we wouldn’t have an office ready at all come Nov. 1, that we’d end up the world’s first homeless newspaper. I had terrible visions of us working out of the back of a VW bus, of setting up our iMacs in a sheltered alley and furtively writing stories and making ads before the cops come and rousted us out.

We all keep telling each other that a month from now, we’ll all look back on this transitional time and laugh.

Ha ha ha ha ha, we will all laugh as they strap us into our straightjackets and feed us applesauce while they cart us off to the asylum.

Each and every time my wife and I move our own possessions from house to house, we swear we will never ever do that again. I had thought we had an awful lot of excess junk, but that was before I had to help supervise moving a newspaper office.

If I am a pack rat, the Sierra Sun has been a pack elephant, laden with the detritus of decades of newspapering.

It’s astounding what a newspaper can accumulate in a mere 150 years or so. In cleaning out our back closets (once upon a time, they were known as “spare offices”), we have found archaeological finds probably dating back to the Sun’s early days as the Truckee Republican in 1869 or so. I kept expecting to come across a mummified prospector or something in there.

There are strange artifacts that nobody currently in the office could identify a tin foil voodoo doll. A hideous red sweatshirt. An entire box full of empty film canisters. A large inflatable rubber spider.

There is a cleansing feel to moving. You get to go through all of the junk you’ve gathered, and distill it down to the bare essence of what you really need.

Journalism, in the past two decades or so, has seen the tools of the trade change more so than it did in the hundred years previous, moving from “hot type” to computer pagination, from pasting up ads and photos to clicking mouse buttons and building pages that you never actually have to physically touch before they come off the newspaper’s press.

We found many obsolete tools of the profession, obscure things like waxing machines, border tape, razor knives and colored pencils.

There were also several utterly defunct computer monitors from the early 1980s we found gathering dust in a cobwebby corner.

We invented a cool new game for the disposal of these monitors, called “monitor catapult.” The goal of the game was to see how far you could hurl a 20-pound monitor into the dumpster, and what kind of interesting noises it would make when it landed.

Unfortunately, these monitors were a lot tougher than they looked, as former Sun publisher Eric Henry and I discovered Friday. Eric threw one monitor with control and grace, but it simply landed in the dumpster with a resounding clunk, rather than exploding impressively. I yanked the monitor out and threw it again into the dumpster, but it only cracked the case.

Finally, I leapt into the dumpster and began beating the monitor with a big stick. That worked very well. It was years and years worth of computer-created frustration coming back to roost. That! was for the time you crashed and I had to rebuild the entire front page before deadline! This! is for the day all my e-mails ended up mysteriously on the public server for all to read. Admit it -who hasn’t wanted to beat on a computer at some point for its sins?

It was beautifully cathartic, and I wish to propose that once a year or so we take some obsolete equipment out into the parking lot and pound it mercilessly, until our souls feel purged.

In any event, we hope to survive the moving process intact and relatively sane, so we can keep bringing you this little newspaper each and every week.

Just look for the new office out by Donner Lake, the one with the smashed and shattered computer monitors in the parking lot.

Sierra Sun Editor Nik Dirga grew up in Nevada County.


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