’13 going on ’14

The year is quickly coming to an end, and I’ve been hard at work as ever. Not much news to report, but plenty to be proud of. After working A1 on Thanksgiving, I stopped while I was walking past a box today and just smiled at the cover. Not my greatest design, though a pretty good headline.


Happy Thanksgiving.

Staying Sharp

As my fellow “ink-stained wretch” (his words) uncle Steve reminded me, I need to write. OK, everyone has reminded me of such. And I am writing, though much of it is just essays-in-progress and a blog post here and there at Medium. But I saw an opportunity to get my byline in the Post Register instead of just scanning others’ for spelling errors. Because we have a paywall and our soon-to-be-redesigned website is admitted by all to be pretty ugly, I’ve posted the PDF of the page it fell on. Strange spot for a local story but look ma, boxed and everything:


Back in Montana, virtually, I’ve exhausted the current issue’s articles for social shoutouts, and can’t seem to get readers to submit their stories (yet), so I showed them how it’s done with a lesson in getting into a kayak.

Also in Montana, physically, I’ve submitted a “Looking Ahead” story for Montana Journalism Review. The theme of this year’s issue is secrets, so all I can say about the story is xxxxxxxxx.

As I’ve been doing a lot of sports designing lately, I don’t have awesome A1s to share. Though the headline “Lumberjacks stump Montana” will long be a favorite, as will this high school football cheerleader:

B01 100513 Sat SpoSo much swag. Until next time~

An Absence, An Acceptance

My how time passes when you’re getting married. That’s right, on Sept. 7, 2013, I signed up for a lifetime of happiness. But let’s not focus on the details, this is a professional blog, right?

I had a bit of time off for the fantastic fete, which I had built in to the end of my time here in Idaho Falls. Turns out, it’s not going to end: I’ve been hired on as the newest member of the copy desk at the Post Register. They liked my Midwestern work ethic, of course, and my steady improvements in pagination. Plus, an opening appeared at just the right time. So stay tuned for even more swell designs as well as my renewed drive to get a few bylines a month, wherever they will fit. I’m lucky to be in a newsroom when every other day massive cuts are announced across the media. So I’m going to take every opportunity I can for as long as I can.

Though I’m a bit across the border, I’ll still be the online editor for Montana Headwall, conjuring social media posts and properly aligning new content (and occasionally creating it). I’ve been reading up on social media strategy, but still find some luck involved for maximum exposure. If anyone has an accurate algorithm, I’d love to see it. Or perhaps I’m in the process of making it?

Like Headwall on Facebook, follow me @readbrooks on Twitter and watch for some upcoming words to help you read Brooks.

Deadlines Forever

Talking about a local story at the paper today one of my co-copy editors wondered what jobs without deadlines are like. I can’t say I know; even seven years at coffee shops imposed an arbitrary deadline on beverage production. I simply don’t know any other operating environment. There is always a goal, a stop time and a reset. So the onus is on increasing speed with a direct relationship to quality. It’s like when I finally mastered the latte-flower-pour but still turned out that steamed milk and espresso faster and tastier than anyone else. (Hold on, there’s more than madness to the metaphor.) Copy editing and especially design are the same way: Get better while getting faster. Tonight’s A-section came in an hour early and it’s the damn best cover I’ve put out yet. While I’m still struggling with color coordination, I’ve got typeface, sizing, white space and dominance down easy.

Here are my three best covers of August, in order from the earliest. I really do feel a daily improvement and a desire to experiment more and more. Is it working?

Thursday, August 1, 2013
Thursday, August 1, 2013
Friday, August 16
Friday, August 16
Wednesday, August 21
Wednesday, August 21

Expect links to my Fresh Facts stories on Missoula fashion and activism soon, followed by some outdoors writing. Hey, maybe some videos when I finally upgrade my camera, eh? Thanks for stopping by, tell your friends.

Mountains Beyond Mountains

… of which I’m feeling pretty on top for a newly minted quarter-century-year-old. Aside from seeing Alabama Shakes at Grand Targhee and Belle & Sebastian in SLC (photos below), I’ve received another birthday present of sorts: I’ve been made the online editor for Montana Headwall as well as its Facebook curator. (Notice the Facebook link, which I highly recommend you click and ‘like.’) The quarterly outdoors magazine publishes user-contributed trip and gear reports, which I’ll be in charge of making attractive and accessible. Not to mention I’ll be adding my own adventures to the mix, like last week’s discovery of the crazy amount of fish at Lake Hebgen near West Yellowstone. I’m excited, what can I say.

It’s been busy (overtime busy) at the Post Register as we transition to a new CMS and InDesign at the copy desk. It’s been nice teaching instead of being taught (Quark) for the past two weeks, as I know shortcuts and secrets that have aided the migration. I’ll be taking over the A section a few days this week as the assistant copy chief acquaints herself with the whole ordeal. Again, very exciting.

Fun stuff coming up at the Indy, but no spoilers just yet. Instead here is some work I’ve done recently and photos of the bands I had promised:

This ran on B1 (Sports) as the main art during an issue between Chukars games recently.
This ran on B1 (Sports) as the main art during an issue between Chukars games recently.

In hindsight I wish I had done some sort of reverse type, but font choice, not color, dominated my thought pattern. Might as well stick with one theme and show off my first sports page (again, playing with fonts):

Slow news day in sportsland to run a Pirate as the centerpiece, but the All Star break will do that.
Slow news day in sportsland to run a Pirate as the centerpiece, but the All Star break will do that.

And here is Stuart Murdoch of Scottish indie-pop kings Belle & Sebastian, followed by Brittany Howard and Co. of the super-soulful Alabama Shakes:

Thousands turned out for Salt Lake's first Twilight concert of the summer season, including my Kaimin mates interning at the Tribune this summer.
Thousands turned out for Salt Lake’s first Twilight concert of the summer season, including my Kaimin mates interning at the Tribune this summer.
The Targhee Music Festival, while not large as far as festivals go, drew a lively crowd on the last day of its run this year.
The Targhee Music Festival, while not large as far as festivals go, drew a lively crowd on the last day of its run this year.

The Middle

Or at least very close to it. And already I’m putting out A1s:

Holiday covers have to be subtly cheeky, see.
Holiday covers have to be subtly cheeky, see.

Pretty happy about that, as you can guess. Just a few more weeks refining my Quark skills before we switch to InDesign, where I should really shine (what with the 400-level course, 10-day intensive training and general usage).

Speaking of general usage, I updated my resumé, clips and my LinkedIn profile to better reflect, well, the last two months. They’ve been busy, what can I say (see below).

Another reason I named this post “The Middle” was to have some segue into my Jimmy Eat World review, though there wasn’t really a transition there anyway. A good band with a so-so album, a careful balance to strike.

Anyway, not to keep you too long, here’s a photo of Idaho Falls’ Whiskey Sasquatch from a few weeks ago. They play rockabilly this and rockabilly that and cover the Ramones multiple times a set, completely sincere.

The lead singer/guitarist won the 2011 Bukowski Fest costume contest at Missoula's Wilma Theatre. He took Walter to the next level.
The lead singer/guitarist won the 2011 Bukowski Fest costume contest at Missoula’s Wilma Theatre. He took Walter to the next level.

In Case You Missed It

I realize I have yet to post the result of a semester studying and reporting on the personal economy of the Fort Peck Reservation. Well don’t let me put any more words between it and you:

Necessary Alternatives

I would post some of Sam Wilson’s great photos, but go watch the video first and find the photos speckled throughout the best long read I’ve written. Don’t skimp on the other stories, especially Taylor Anderson’s Fort Belknap story with multimedia by Hunter D’Antuono (whom I’m trusting with my wedding photography). I’m happy to have come up with the title of the package that went out in print and online: Vast Expenses. Headline writing is good fun.

Meanwhile, in Idaho Falls: heat. The heat wave that is baking the southwest is definitely reaching its fiery fingers into the northern West. It’ll be in the 90s all week — what better time to be looking for a sea kayak on Craigslist. Also, here’s today’s West cover package:

White space is to design as silence is to orchestration.
White space is to design as silence is to orchestration.

I’ll be in Missoula on my first three-day weekend before working July 4 and after, just in time to catch this band I was lucky enough to review, Ivan & Alyosha. They sound like the subtle sadness of a gray Seattle day in a light folk rock way. Perfect.

Paper Birds and Sky-High Fires

Remember how I set that new goal for myself, “don’t compare reviewed artists to other artists?” Yeah, already broke that one in the first line of my review of Paper Bird. A rugged sort of pop grows in those Colorado hills, it seems. My review mentions the Avett Brothers, and no you will never stop hearing about them, especially with their just-scheduled stop at the Adams Center in Missoula. (!) Glorious.

Speaking of Missoula, I took a bit of a geographic and literary stretch with my new favorite headline on today’s West cover:

Screen Shot 2013-06-21 at 1.38.07 PM
“A River Runs Through It,” get it?

Fires are going to be pretty bad this summer (already are in parts of the West), made worse by the sequester’s effect on the Forest Service’s budget. Put out your fires, campers. Before you leave, the ashes should be cool enough to dip your, well, parts of your body you wouldn’t normally hold to a fire. It’s the climate, sure, but farmers here pay the same rate for water as the rest of us, which is leading me on an interesting data-collecting adventure… But more on that later, likely much later.

As for tonight off, time for some minor league baseball. The Idaho Falls Chukars, in my beloved Missoula Osprey’s Pioneer League, reportedly have a chance this year after missing the playoffs for six straight years. The Royals spread their rookies over three teams instead of the usual two, but a handshake apparently got I.F. a few top picks this year. But hey, I’m just in it for the hot dogs and beer. Or rather, hot dog and beers. Cheers.

On My Post at the Post Register

Well, two weeks down and I must say I’m pretty thrilled about the diversity of work I get to do here in Idaho Falls. The copy desk is also the design desk, for the main sections anyway, and I’ve been thrown headlong into the daily deadline grind of turning out well designed and well edited pages. My first week’s work on The West, the B/regional section, culminates tomorrow with an early deadline and a lot less hand-holding. But I think I’ve caught up to the pica-specifics and headline styles:

Thursday's B1, the front of my other 3 pages for the day.
Thursday’s B1, the front of my other 3 pages for the day.

So my first Sunday spread awaits, and boy am I glad to have glasses on my face and coffee at the ready, it’s time to move quickly (but accurately).

In other news I’m still freelancing for the Independent, as their album-reviewer-at-large, it seems. Any excuse to listen to new music I wouldn’t otherwise find, and this week I got lucky with the folk duo Tina and Her Pony and the down-the-middle indie pop group Generationals.

2012 self-titled debut of the New Mexico folk duo.

After at least 100 reviews in the weekly’s pages by now (or maybe almost 100) I feel my style has been refined and I can say what I mean without chunky language or misplaced metaphors. That said, I need to keep growing. While in Austin I had a short chat with Peter Mongillo, the American-Statesman’s music writer, and he said the challenge is to talk about music without talking about other bands. Which is sound advice — an easy review-killer is exclusionary or insider language. It’s sad but true: Not everyone knows who Weezer is. So I’ve tried following that advice myself, and while it opens up the crutch of labels and genres it’s also a chance to paint the picture an album does without hearing it yourself. Make sense? I’m working on it, stay tuned.

Finally, while east Idaho, and I.F. in particular, tend to lack the thriving youth culture that makes Missoula great, I’ve found breweries, an excellent greenbelt bike trail, a solid and nostalgia-inducing coffee shop and a natural foods store not far from my house. (What can I say, Missoula got to me.) Plus, a Pioneer League (minor-rookie) baseball team to cheer for when the Osprey aren’t in town whooping ’em. But don’t tell that to the sports desk.

Let me leave you with my foot in a sea kayak in the middle of Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park:

Not a bad way to spend my first few days off (about 120 miles from I.F.).
Not a bad way to spend my first few days off (about 120 miles from I.F.).

Chaos in Tejas

I had posted this earlier but apparently the internet got hungry. Well, to reprise:

The DJNF workshop at the University of Texas was a huge success. I was lucky enough to be among the 11 intelligent and visionary interns now spread across the country. Our final three days were spent turning out the Southwest Journalist, a six-page broadsheet and online publication. It was serious workflow, from the budget meeting at 2:30 to the hands-in-the-air “good enough” at 11. I edited on the first night, designed the front page then wrapped up with a pretty great feature page:p6_053113

Which was all good and necessary practice, because I did just that today at my first shift with the Idaho Falls Post Register. A wire page, edited, designed and rimmed all by myself (under the loose supervision of the copy desk proper). At this point, I’m feeling good, but I need to get faster. “Repetition,” they said. No problem.

A quick side note: Language immersion is a very real thing. After only ten days in Austin, a y’all managed to slip into my speech, in that I said “Are y’all following me on Twitter?” I miss that place, despite the ridiculous humidity. I met up with an old friend from Fargo, saw the hipster cowboys and attempted a two-step, saw the swarms of Sixth Street and vowed never to eat a taco this far north again. Plus, I met some amazing people I don’t plan to forget.

The UT DJNF interns and instructors at a restaurant in Austin I can't remember because they fed us so much.
The UT DJNF interns and instructors at a restaurant in Austin I can’t remember because they fed us so much.