After a long week of grinding away at a keyboard, staring into a 27-inch computer screen, and hiding out in an AC-filled office, it's time for our editorial department to resurface Friday evening, Sept. 8, for a little team bonding.
The 5 p.m. punch-out time means the editorial team for New Times is ready to meet up with the staff of its sister paper, the Sun, for a bonfire in Grover Beach.
We've got everything on our checklist: burgers, beers, tunes, blankets, and chairs. With enough wood to build a warm fire for the evening, we make our way south. Instead of taking Highway 101, we try to avoid traffic by taking the side streets.
Team bonding really starts even before we get to the beach, as people pile into each other's cars with all their gear. Although asking questions is second nature to us as reporters and editors, we're so wrapped up in our everyday coverage that we don't always get to ask each other about how different our childhoods were or how we survived middle school.
The beach at the end of Grand Avenue in Grover Beach is a stretch of sand that leads into the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area. It's flat and sturdy enough for cars to drive on, but a four-wheel drive is recommended.
To hang out on the beach with your car costs $5 for a day pass, but don't give the tollbooth guy any quarters; apparently he doesn't like getting those and readily gave us a dose of sass.
When we arrive on the beach, it's about 6 p.m. and the weather is absolutely perfect. The sun is starting to slowly lower into the ocean, the breeze has picked up, and the sand is soft to the touch. As we set up camp, the rest of the crew starts arriving.
Joe Payne, managing editor of the Sun, brought his guitar and mandolin along. He tries and fails to coax New Times Arts Editor Ryah Cooley and I to sing along. Payne is a veritable jukebox; from older melodies to classic rock, he's ready to bust out the jams and New Times Editor Camillia Lanham is ready to sing along.
The sun is dying down and our bonfire gets put together as the burgers cook over hot coals. We sit around, keeping warm by the fire as we watch cars pass by, no doubt heading for the overnight camping spots.
Everyone is talking about work, the different offices, and the different news coverage, offering tips to one another or just explaining how each team functions. A lot of the staff members from the Sun are from out of town originally, so we get to hear stories about what they were doing before they came to the paper or what college they came from. Everyone has a unique story about how they got to the point in their life now.
But even though we come from different places, we all have one thing in common: the love of journalism. It's a passion for writing, listening to people, reaching out to local officials, and getting to know the areas that we cover.
It's that time of night right before the group starts to head their separate ways—the beach is open until 11 p.m. Editors make speeches around the fire about how enthusiastic they are about the teams they have. The team—it's a group of diverse people that come together for a purpose. Our purpose is to create informative papers for our communities while we learn about our counties and one another too. Δ
Karen Garcia is enjoying a cold brew on the sand at email@example.com.