Archived Story

Learning can equal anxiety [UPDATED]

Published 4:37am Monday, August 19, 2013 Updated 6:39am Monday, August 19, 2013

There are a lot of romantic notions about the learning process.

Most people seem to think that school is some sort of fairyland, that kids have it easy because they really don’t have to do a job, they simply listen to their teacher all day, separated by lunch, recess and some gym classes in between.

After spending the last week learning a new software program, I can tell you that the idea of learning being an easy thing is a myth. Learning is hard work, and it can be a source of anxiety.

This week, The Journal installed new computers and software in its newsroom. The switch meant that those who have to design pages – myself included – had to learn a new program called InDesign.

For the past two decades, I have been designing pages using QuarkXPress. I can design pages in my sleep. Deciding which stories and photos go in which places on the page based on newsworthiness has always required thought. Making those decisions become reality on a page, for years, has not.

InDesign is similar to Quark, but it’s not the same. All of those things that were like breathing in Quark I had to actually relearn in InDesign. Putting borders on photos, inserting stories onto pages, putting those little weather graphics on the page and many other minute things required different keys and different mouse clicks.

In a vacuum, I could see where learning how to use InDesign would be fun. The only vacuum at The Journal is in the custodian’s room. I had to learn how to use InDesign while dealing with some big stories, managing the advertising staff during a busy month, handling a number of production issues, and doing next year’s budget.

As a person whose personality has never been confused with a surfer dude’s, the idea that I can’t just make what I want on the page happen brought my anxiety level up, and it kept creeping up as the deadline neared.

It would be like needing to write something down right-handed (I’m left), or driving on the opposite side of the road in England. You know what you need to get done. You just can’t do it.

To quote Charlie Brown, “ARRRGGGHHH!”

As my daughter enters the third grade in less than a month, I have more respect for what she’s doing every day, and use patience as I try to help her with her math homework. Last year, we had several bouts of frustration during some homework session. I could never quite understand why, if she could not get something right away, she would get upset and want to quit.

I get it now. She is, after all, my daughter.


• • •


A few years ago, during a Journal open house, and older couple came into the newsroom, and I was showing them our web site. The man looked a little confused. I invited him to try it out, and he said something like, “I don’t think I’m ready.”

I found out later that the couple was Chuck Underwood, my predecessor, and his wife.

I think Underwood, who died last week at the age of 89, would be similarly blown away by the new technologies The Journal is installing this coming week. New computer-to-plate technology, in essence, means we will use one machine that previously required five to make the plate on which this newspaper is printed.

Of course, I’m sure I’ll be blown away if I walk into a newspaper office 30 years from now.

By the way, thanks for keeping the newspaper alive, Chuck. We’re all grateful to you.


Joel Myhre is The Journal’s Publisher. Email him at



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