Herman: Dog days in the newsroom


From time to time I like to take you behind the scenes here at the Newspaper-by-the-Lake-That’s-Really-A-River. Today is one of those days. Lucky for you.

The two questions I get most from readers are (1) Please tell me how you folks produce the magic that is the newspaper and websites we are so blessed to have, and (B) Hey, Brooklyn boy — they pay you to write this stuff?

The answers are (1) A total, selfless dedication to the betterment of our community, and (B) No, they overpay me.

Today’s topic is an announcement at a recent staff meeting. Perhaps you’re aware these are times of great change and challenge for newspapers. At this recent meeting, we were updated on various upcoming changes, including the addition of our content to the Alexa device, which will give you an exciting new way to yell at us.

RELATED: Get the American-Statesman flash briefing on Alexa

And we heard about a new program aimed at keeping newsroom folks happy. You ever try to keep newsroom folks happy? Not easy. We’ve got good benefits, river/lakefront views and a bottomless candy drawer. Yet, somehow, not everybody in the newsroom seems happy each and every moment of each and every day. Go figure.

So management (and let’s stop here for the usual reminder that everybody in management here is brilliant) has come up with a new program. Turns out in addition to being brilliant, the management folks are kind to animals. At last some animals.

Employees with dogs — and only dogs — are being invited to bring them to work. I’m aware this is a thing in some businesses. It’s a new thing at this business that started in our sales department weeks ago. And there are rules, delineated in the “Bring Your Dog to Work Newsroom Guidelines and Acknowledgement” posted for our perusal.

These are good rules. (Management never makes bad rules.) Unfortunately, they include some rules for dogs that I fear some of my colleagues (including me on some days) would have trouble living up to.

Visiting dogs must be “up to date on vaccinations, flea and heart worm treatments (and have) been neutered.” (I’ll give you a few seconds here for your own joke about whether journalists should reproduce.) Dogs also must be “friendly, clean, housebroken and generally well-mannered.” (Hey, isn’t that the motto of the Dog Scouts of America?)

The guidelines remind us “Your co-workers are here to work, not pet sit. If you have a job in which you might be called away on assignments unexpectedly, don’t bring your dog to work.” We’re also reminded to “Respect that not everyone likes dogs.”

“If your dog doesn’t like strangers, don’t bring it to work. If your dog would be miserable sitting in an office all day, don’t bring it to work. There is no tolerance for biting.”

FUN ON THE GO: Download the Austin360 app to find more things to do and share with your friends

And there’s a guideline reminding us that management, in addition to being brilliant and kind to (some) animals, has a wonderful sense of humor.

“You will be required to remove your dog from our premises based on excessive disruption to normal business operations, ex., barking, whining, too noisy, etc. That goes for the dog’s behavior, too.”

The program is limited to one dog at a time, no more than two dogs per day, no more than two days a week. That provides both challenge and opportunity for a colleague who asked me about his three dogs. I told him this could be an incentive: “Whichever of you behaves best doesn’t have to go to the newsroom.”

I assume flexibility might be shown for pooches that show writing talent, which will be judged on ruff drafts. Bird dogs will be allowed to tweet. (Oh, quit your groaning. You know how much worse this could have been?)

There’s also a “Newsroom Dog Days Feedback” form offered as a “safe space for you to offer your feedback on the bring your dog to work program.” One of the questions asks for feedback once the program’s underway, rating it on a scale of one to 10, with one being “Can’t stand it. It’s a drooly mess,” and 10 being “Love it. Best thing about the newsroom now.”

The new program seemed well-received at the meeting as visions of cute puppies danced in our heads. One guy did raise what I thought was an excellent question about equality: “Can we bring kitties?” I asked.

No, I was told. The program is species-specific. Doesn’t seem fair, does it? I think a bring-your-pet-to-work program would be far more interesting. I harbor suspicions about the odd pets some of my colleagues might have.

TAKE A BREAK AT MIDDAY: Click here for our midday email of news and entertainment

To stave off email protestations, let’s make it clear that I like dogs. The only reason I’ve never had one is because they are annoying. Just kidding there.

The real reason I’ve never had one is because they seem like more of a commitment than I’ve ever been willing to make for a pet. They look like tons of fun, and I’d love playing with them at home and enjoying the somehow socially acceptable practice of taking them to a neighbor’s yard to do the messier things they do.

My family has had cats. Having a cat is relatively low maintenance and almost like having a pet. But I don’t think of myself as a cat person, with all its potentially negative connotations, including maturing into an Older American with 13 cats including one named Miss Snickerbottoms.

I’m looking forward to meeting my colleagues’ dogs. I’ll keep you posted on any incidents and those with the silliest names (the dogs, not the colleagues).

And I’ll give you full coverage if I see any kitties picketing outside the building.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

Letters to the editor: Aug. 20, 2017

To those who say that Confederate memorials do not support racism but merely celebrate culture — and that men like Robert E. Lee did good deeds other than their participation in the Civil War — I ask, “Why should we be publicly honoring traitors at all?” Benedict Arnold was a fine general and a worthy colleague of George Washington...
Facebook comments: Aug. 20, 2017
Facebook comments: Aug. 20, 2017

As reported by the American-Statesman’s Mark Wilson, the Texas Confederate Militia says it will hold the Dixie Freedom Rally Sept. 2 at Woolridge Square, which will include a march and rally. Representatives from the State Preservation Board and Austin’s Parks and Recreation department said the group had not reached out to either entity...
Viewpoints: On racism, a president who’s lost the moral authority
Viewpoints: On racism, a president who’s lost the moral authority

Like the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who emerged from under their hoods for all the world to see last week in Charlottesville, Va., President Donald Trump laid bare his character and his soul Tuesday, telling America that the white nationalists and those who protested racism were equals who shared blame in the mayhem. There “were very fine...
Viewpoints: On racism, a president who’s lost the moral authority
Viewpoints: On racism, a president who’s lost the moral authority

Like the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who emerged from under their hoods for all the world to see last week in Charlottesville, Va., President Donald Trump laid bare his character and his soul Tuesday, telling America that the white nationalists and those who protested racism were equals who shared blame in the mayhem. There “were very fine...
Commentary: U.S. health care is too big to fail. What Congress can do
Commentary: U.S. health care is too big to fail. What Congress can do

Republicans won control of Congress and the White House based largely on a single promise: They’d rid the world of Obamacare, despite that law’s reduction of the number of uninsured people in this country by 20 million. “Obamacare is death,” the president told us. After so closely tracking various iterations of GOP health care...
More Stories