We are now at the height of what we used to call in the newspaper biz the Silly Season. When July segues into August the SS is at its apex.
What it means, simply enough, is that bugger all is happening in the community at this calendar point. People are on vacation – off somewhere, out on the boats, at their cottages, pitching tents in the wilderness and doing scads of other things that are consummately unnotable.
Clubs and organizations either shut down or at least slow down. Municipal councils give even less of a shit about the public’s wants and needs than they normally do. School is out. Local sports aren’t doing much and everybody is idling their metaphorical engines waiting for the fall to come in and stuff to be happening again.
Now my references here are only to the local scene as it is and certainly ‘was’ when I was still working assorted beats. I say local scene; nationally and globally lots of stuff is happening, much of it too hideous and frightening to be elaborated upon here, but you know what I mean.
But Silly Season locally, in that aforementioned fallow news time could prove to be a huge challenge. It is the time when editors tell their reporters to basically ‘make’ some news. You know, write a feature story although anybody you might want to talk to is out of town. Diligent editors refuse to accept such excuses as ‘unavailability’. Only pussies whine that somebody was unavailable.
The high (or low) point of your classic SS, especially if it’s a torrid summer like the one we’re having, and there are no wildfires to fill the pages, is the old ‘frying an egg on searing pavement’. It has always been believed that the sidewalk surely must be as hot as a skillet, so sappy novice reporter, go to it. I was once a sappy novice reporter. It doesn’t work.
But, if you experience an epic fail in your quest, like that pavement egg-fry, your editor will still want you to produce something to fill that damn paper. The ads have been sold. The paper has to be filled. A colleague once wrote a feature on the allure of peanut butter. It was rather good. I wrote one on the waxing and waning popularity of lipstick. It was fun to write.
The Silly Season may lack a lot in the way of real hard news but sometimes papers end up being more entertaining.
And sometimes they end up being just plain silly.