You can tell how crazy a night in the newsroom is by the amount of cheese pizza left over.
As the news goes, the cheese pizza goes.
There’s Election Night pizza, when everyone on staff usually behaves themselves and takes the average 2.5 pieces allotted per person and then appropriately tosses used plates, napkins and empty boxes in the proper receptacles. Leftovers — always the uneaten cheese pizza — are gathered and sent home with the last one out of the building or left in the break room fridge for the morning crew’s breakfast.
Then there’s huge-breaking-news pizza, when there’s nothing left at the end of the night. Not even the cheese. Boxes are strewn across filing cabinets, plates left next to keyboards and no one has time for napkins.
On those nights, when huge news breaks so fast, no one has time to leave, let alone get dinner — or care what type of pizza has been ordered.
Walk into any newsroom around the country, and if you see pizza boxes, you know something’s happening.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch’s newsroom is no stranger to these breaking-news-cheese-pizza nights, especially lately.
On those nights, no one is going home early. That’s not because they have to stay, but because they want to stay — they need to stay. The pizza is just a bonus.
Here at the RTD we are blessed to have a staff full of those journalists. A staff that sacrifices for the greater good. A staff that won’t clock out until everything is done and made the best it possibly can be.
Ours is a staff that doesn’t cut corners or take the easy way out. A staff full of reporters who work all day and night, only to go home and plug back in to update a story online or make one more phone call to double or triple check a fact. A staff who cover for each other when sick or out of town or juggling two, three, four other stories. A staff of reporters who want the truth and pursue it with an awe-inspiring passion.
A staff that includes copy editors who never get their names in the paper, but are the backbone to what we do. A team full of dedicated, hard-working, humble professionals who have saved our bacon way more times than can be counted.
A staff full of photographers who will stand outside in any kind of weather to get the shot or the video. Photographers who don’t just capture that moment in time, but help illustrate the emotion and passion behind it. They’re there for some of the best — and worst — moments of people’s lives.
A staff full of sports reporters who spend more time driving to a game than they actually do covering it, only to return home later than college students on a Saturday night. Reporters and columnists who rack up Marriott points like miles on their odometer, but spend only enough time in the hotel room to blink for sleep, shower (sometimes) and head back out again.
A staff full of designers who somehow put together a 10,000-piece puzzle every night in less time than it takes most of us to order off a two-page restaurant menu.
A staff full of journalists who are committed to bringing our readers the news — the truth. With passion.
Now more than ever, we need journalists like that. Cheese-pizza-hungry reporters, editors, designers, photographers who are running full tilt toward stories and projects, demanding transparency, accountability and accuracy.
And it’s not just the big news nights. It’s every day in between.
We just celebrated Sunshine Week, our annual reminder of our journalists’ abilities and pursuit of public information, while promoting open government and our role as journalists to demand transparency.
While it’s unfortunate that we need to highlight a specific week to remind people of the work we do daily, it’s necessary.
Stories just don’t happen. They take time, effort, a shovel and a flashlight.
Stories aren’t microwavable. There’s no easy-bake. There are threads of stories being pulled at for days, weeks, months and sometimes years. And there are a lot of things that never make it into print or on our website.
We ask questions — a lot of questions. Many don’t get answered ... but it doesn’t stop us from asking.
Even on the mundane days, we are working our craft — like an athlete in the gym or on the practice field — so we can be ready for the cheese-pizza-hungry nights.
We are only as good as our commitment to truth. And we will pursue it, always.
You might not always like it, but, if we’re being honest, you want it — you need it.
I think Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras summed it up best in a Twitter response to RTD education reporter Justin Mattingly, who has put together a must-read weekly education newsletter.
“Hands down, best source of education news in RVA,” Kamras tweeted about High Stakes — the education newsletter. “Can’t say I love every headline 😬 [emoji], but I’m grateful to live/work in a city that cares enough to write them. I’ll take passion over apathy every day of the week.”
Passion over apathy. Truth — without fear or favor.
That’s our commitment to you, our reader. That’s our commitment to our society. That’s our commitment to our creed.
We need truth. We need transparency. We need sunshine.
We need journalists. And pizza.
Good thing we’ve got them.