Q: Carl, how long have you been editor of the Scuttlebutt? And what enticed you to take over the job?
In the Midway Museum Research Library there is a Pass Down the Line (PDL) log where the Library Lead enters items to bring them to the attention of other Library Leads; these could be “lessons learned,” reminders to perform certain tasks, or just funny or unusual things that happen. Not everyone in the Library has access to the PDL and so our Lead Librarian Bonnie Brown started compiling selected items for distribution to the “general population” of over 30 Library Volunteers. She referred to these documents as “updates.”
Bonnie had been doing her series of updates for about two-and-a-half years every two weeks or so. She got busy with other duties as the Library grew and asked if I would mind taking over publishing these notes. We decided to “dress up” the update notes and asked all Library Volunteers to submit names for the newsletter. Several people suggested The Scuttlebutt and so we chose that as the name. I did my first issue of The Scuttlebutt 7 September 2017 and called it Volume 2, Number 12.
Q: What‘s a scuttlebutt?
In the days of wooden sailing ships, potable water for the crew’s use was carried in large wooden vats. To make it readily available, drinking water was transferred to a small communal cask, or “butt,” centrally located in the ship’s quarters. This cask had a hole, referred to as a “scuttle,” with a hinged lid enabling a person to get a drink with a dipper. The “scuttlebutt” was a natural gathering place where news and pleasantries were passed among the crew. Eventually, the information itself became referred to as scuttlebutt.
Q: How often is the Scuttlebutt published and how long does it take you to prepare each issue?
We publish every other Thursday, twice in a month. It takes, all together, maybe 12 to 14 hours in the two-week period. In months that have five Thursdays, we publish only two issues and take the extra time off.
On the Sunday before publication I start to lay out the material and decide on “lead” articles, features, etc., which takes about three to five hours. Then on the next day I execute a “hard” deadline and start to refine the content, again maybe three to five hours. Monday night before I go to bed I route it as a PDF document to the “proofer’s guild,” or “editorial board” consisting of the Senior Library Leads. They get back to me on Tuesday and I include their “nits.”
I let it rest on Wednesday and do a “final” pass maybe a half-hour before I go to bed and then send it out so that our readers have it in their in-boxes first thing Thursday.
Q: Where do you get your ideas for each issue?
I pick up items and photos as I come across them. I always keep an eye out for things that might “fit” and collect tidbits as I go. Folks in the Library are constantly feeding me ideas and tips. I keep a folder called “hip pocket file” that all this stuff goes into. When I need something to write about, I dip into that.
Q: Who writes the features?
I usually scan the e-mails and PDL, taking material from them and then polishing it into complete sentences. Sometimes I can combine two or more items into a wider story. Martha Lepore does the “people” features and is a constant font of ideas.
Q: Do you have a standard layout you use?
I copy the previous issue’s Word document to use as a template for laying out the new issue, going through to update the folio, masthead, and title banner. I save that into a new folder. When I’ve completed the draft of the new issue, I save it as a PDF document to route to the proofer’s guild.
Q: Does anyone help you with the Scuttlebutt?
First and foremost, assistant editor Martha Lepore is tireless in pursuit of material for The Scuttlebutt. She almost single-handedly does the “profiles” or feature stories of people aboard the Midway Museum.
I send a draft in PDF form to the editorial board for editing and proofing. On Tuesday night Martha and I do a marathon telephone walk-through, addressing all the changes/corrections and essentially a page-by-page comb-through taking about an hour or two.
The real secret is having a cadre of interested, intelligent, willing, and very knowledgeable people to do most of the heavy lifting. It’s a team effort with 30-some Volunteers chipping in. We have four or five Volunteers who contribute regularly from different parts of the country; two on the East Coast! All I have to do is put it together….
Q: What else do you do as a Library volunteer?
I’m the Library Lead on Saturday afternoons, supervising three to five librarians. We usually field four to five “guests” in the Library to look up former crew members, interacting with them as to what their relatives might have done aboard the ship. This sometimes gets emotional, particularly if we can find a photo of the crew member during a cruise aboard USS Midway.
We’re also working up a book on the aircraft exhibited aboard the Midway Museum. This will detail the airplane’s Navy service, its path from the Navy to the Museum, and what the Museum had to do to make the aircraft presentable as an exhibit.
Q: What was your background before you became a volunteer?
I spent thirty years in the US Navy and, after retirement, about ten years on various magazine staffs and another ten years as a technical writer for high-tech manufacturing, research, and development.
Q: I understand you previously served on the Midway. When did you serve and what was your job? Did that have any bearing on your desire to become a volunteer here?
After I was commissioned as a Warrant Officer, I was detailed to USS Midway in 1981 as the Assistant Electronic Warfare Officer with a collateral duty as Air Transfer Officer. As ATO, my duties required me to work on the flight deck during flight operations, probably the most exciting job I had in the Navy (rivaled only by combat with the Mobile Riverine Force in Vietnam during the late sixties). After I retired from technical writing some old shipmates from my Navy days were volunteering as docents and persuaded me to spend some spare time aboard. I was drawn to the Library and started volunteering in 2011.
Q: How do you define the word shipmate?
A shipmate is anyone who serves in a ship with you. A ship’s crew is divided into workgroups referred to as divisions, people who work in the same spaces (in olden days, divisions were referred to as “messes” or people who ate and slept in the same space. More efficient “cafeteria style” dining in communal mess decks took away the messes, but not the camaraderie). The “pecking order” is messmates before shipmates, and shipmates before anyone else.
As mentioned, we write to the 35 Midway Museum Library Volunteers. Our readership has spread to the Museum staff of about 150 people; the 400 Docent Volunteers; and the 200 Safety Volunteers. In addition, we post The Scuttlebutt to the Museum’s Intranet for who knows how many readers there, though that includes all the above-mentioned folk. I suspect that there is a wider “shadow” audience as staff and volunteers share with friends and family.
Bravo Zulu, Carl. Thanks for taking the time to be interviewed.