Ever wonder what a “typical” day looks like for professionals in various vocations? How do they spend their hours? What do they do at night? What do they read? How do they manage life at work and outside of it? In this series, Fieldnotes catches up with business and organizational leaders and asks them about their typical days, giving us a chance to virtually “shadow” them.  

Peter Stockland is Editor of Convivium and Director of Media Services and Senior Fellow at Cardus. Before joining Cardus, he was vice-president of English-language magazines for Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada Ltd. He is former editor-in-chief of  The Gazette newspaper in Montreal, a former editorial page editor of the Calgary Herald newspaper, and has worked as a journalist through his 30-year career in the media. He currently runs his own communications company, Prima Communication, in Montreal, where he lives with his wife, Linda. In addition to his journalism career, he is also a fiction writer who has published in numerous magazines across the country. His new collection of short stories, If Only, was published in November 2011 by Siren Song Press.

My workday begins with reading three morning newspapers at the breakfast table. Most people who still read newspapers do so mainly out of water cooler curiosity: a generalized desire to be conversant with the main topics of the day. As a writer, editor, and media director for a public policy institute, however, I now read looking for connections with our research and opportunities for placement of our content. It’s nice work if you can get it, though it means skipping past the comics page since I can hardly justify dipping into Calvin and Hobbes on company time. And it begins as I butter my toast.

A significant shift from my years in journalism to my current role with Cardus is in the way I read for work. Previously, I read quickly but first line to last. I resisted leaving paragraphs unread in case there was buried salient fact that might make a follow up story. Now, I read far more selectively and always with an eye out to Cardus research areas first. I skim more, then go deeper when I alight.

The method carries over when I get to my desk about 8 a.m. Normally, I work from a downstairs office at my home in Montreal, Quebec. It’s usually a 20-second commute, slightly longer if I have to kick any of my three cats out of my chair. The perfect picture of schadenfreude is my smug face listening to traffic reports.

The downside is that my Cardus colleagues work at the far end of a 600-kilometre hallway called Highway 401, where our head office is located in Hamilton, Ontario. I spend most of my time working on my own, and that means heavy reliance on email.  For that reason, I’ve had to train myself to resist diving into the inbox the instant I get to my computer. There be dragons, I’ve learned, because I am a sucker for responding to and, yes, initiating the email banter that now substitutes for office kibitzing.

That’s why I prefer to start with editing rather than writing. I like to tackle the longer (2,500 to 3,000 word) submissions for our magazine, Convivium, first. The freelance team that works on the editorial aspect of Convivium (the logistics are handled in Hamilton) is spread over the Maritimes, Quebec, and Ontario. It’s important to sustain workflow and so minimize the mad scramble at the end of each issue cycle. It also helps me practice the principle of doing first what you like less.

Though I’ve been primarily an editor for almost 20 years, my lasting passion is writing. Tuesday and Friday mornings are my opportunity for indulgence. They’re the days, respectively, when I contribute to the Cardus daily blog and when I write a regular column for the Catholic Register newspaper.  For me, a well-turned phrase is the imitation of Heaven on earth.

The phrase hardly need be one of my own. One of my primary roles at Cardus is to help my colleagues place content in various media, which means playing a bridging between writer, editor, and marketer of sorts. On a daily basis, I receive prospective Cardus columns, media releases, research documents, and so on for feedback and any re-writing needed before pitching to newspapers or websites. I see my job as being more akin to a jeweler than a jackhammer operator: intense focus on small things that matter to the overall mechanism rather than creating a lot of noise and rubble.  I did the latter for three decades of newspaper and magazine journalism. That was good. This is better.

Oh, and did I mention the 20-second commute?



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