With editors scattered across the country like a rather wild connect-the-dot drawing, the production of Going Down Swinging No. 35 has proved a unique one. Co-editor Rhys Tate gives us the low-down on remote editing from rural Victoria.
I’m a teacher, but for the past two years I haven’t taught. Instead, I’ve been working in medical administration while I’ve taken care of a family member in the Western District. The town I’m in has a Big Building shaped like wool bales and the gravesite of Mary McKillop’s father, and they’re about two hundred metres across the road from each other, so good luck with finding something to do with the rest of your day.
Of course, out here the number of medical workplaces are limited (try getting a same day doctor’s appointment without describing the symptoms of leprosy, pleurisy or lupus). There’s this curious thing that people do when they ask you which practice you work for, thinking it’s going to be a local one, and you tell them it’s for an audiologist in Melbourne, actually. They blink and smile in a slightly uncertain manner. But that’s impossible, you can hear their brains say. It’s three hundred-odd kilometres, plus the Melbourne bit. Why, he’d be in his car eight hours a day!
Of course, it’s pretty simple. My boss loads the hand-written paperwork into the tray of their fax-scanner combo and emails me the PDF that squirts out the other end. I convert the paperwork into its final formats, print out a hard copy which goes back overnight in an express bag, and email everything else back. We connect via Skype, email, text or landlines which incorporate free national calls. (And if that last phrase sounds a little awkward, be aware that there’s no longer a practical way of including a combination of the words ‘STD’ and ‘free’ into a single sentence.) I fix the minor bugs in the office computers and update the website via remote access, and once a month or so I drive up over a weekend and do all the things that I can’t do remotely.
The slightly increased cost of doing business this way is mitigated by the fact that I’m not taking up an extra seat in an already crowded office and strip-mining the biscuit tin of the Tim Tams. It’s worked well for the two year life of the agreement. And yet, people look at me when I try to describe this scenario much in the same way that they must have looked at people in the 80s who talked about the paper-free offices of the future. Electronic letters? Sure, that’d be good until the first time there’s a power cut.
So, that’s a lot like how working as a remote/rural editor operates. It presents challenges above what you’d encounter in actually working in a room with people, of course, but these get ironed out like any problem. This is my first Going Down Swinging and I’ve met precisely one (1) of the team before, so to the rest I guess I’m just this weird disembodied presence who periodically floats around in the email list. The process hasn’t been helped by a last minute, five week stint overseas which landed smack-bang on top of the busiest month on the GDS calendar.
But the process works and is working, and I believe it will grow in popularity as people realise they can combine a seachange lifestyle (okay, to be fair, it’s more sheepchange here) while enjoying the career opportunities offered by the larger cities.