It was a requirement of administration that required a lot more soul-searching than I thought possible.
Our administrator, Monica Garcia, proposed a question to me: “If you die, what would happen?”
“Well,” I thought to myself. “All the businesses in the Yukon would close until after my funeral and grief counsellors would be brought into the schools.”
But, it turns out, this isn’t what she meant (and, to be fair, she framed her question to suggest it was a coma that may inflict me … but I knew what she meant).
It is her job to pull together a manual to explain how our company operates. If any of us were to die, lapse into a coma or enter a pole-sitting contest, the office would continue humming as efficiently as ever.
This really wasn’t an issue even a year ago. As most people accurately guessed, we just made stuff up as we went along. Only Yukoner magazine has been successful since the launch of the Yukon News 50 years ago so, really, why waste our time writing policy and procedure manuals?
But now there are three papers and not just one, we have an administrator, a marketing and sales guy, four graphic designers and 80 writers.
Yeah. This is a going concern now. And what does happen if one of those valuable pieces were removed from this machine?
It was a lesson I learned 20 years ago as the operational manager of a Kmart: once a year, we would all be brought to head office for meetings and, once a year, one of our number would brag about how things are falling apart back at the store without him (in those days, it was mostly “hims”). The vice-president of operations would turn on a heel and rip into him: “If you are as good as you are supposed to be, your people and your systems will operate just fine without you!”
So, if I were to die, the continued smooth functioning of What’s Up Yukon would be a testament to my skills as an editor. Of course my ego would be served much better if this paper turned into the Penny Saver but, then again, I wouldn’t have an ego if I were dead.
OK. I’ll do it. Which is exactly where the soul-searching came in: Do I write my chapter of this manual as briefly as possible to give the next editors free rein to build their department as they see fit?
(Of course I am using the plural because my ego is still alive and well and assuming it will take a team of five to replace me.)
Or do I include every tool at my disposal, every procedure, every contact?
If I keep it brief, my boss will wonder what I do all day and why she pays me so much.
If I string it out to include every nuance, the next editor’s eyes would glaze over at some point.
Four years ago, when another company I was working for was up for sale, I flirted with the idea of applying for a job in communications with YTG. Public service … yeah, I liked the noble sound of that. But I never got past the job description.
“Who writes these things?” I wondered. “Oh … communications people … the ones who are being replaced.”
In the end, I compromised and dutifully wrote my chapter using 5,658 words. Umm, 5,657 words if you don’t count the sub-head: Summary.