New York is the city that never sleeps. But this renowned insomnia would not be possible without the more than 200,000 men and women who work the nightshift – the fry cooks and coffee jockeys, train conductors and cab hacks, cops, docs, and fishmongers selling cod by the crate. Inverting the natural rhythm of life, they keep the city running as it slows but never stops.

In our book, NIGHTSHIFT NYC, we tell the stories of New York City nightshift workers. This ethnography of the night investigates familiar sites, such as diners, delis and taxis, as well as some unexpected corners of the night, such as a walking tour of homelessness in Manhattan and a fishing boat out of Brooklyn. We show how the nightshift is more than simply out of phase, it is another social space altogether, highly structured, inherently subversive, and shot through with inequalities of power. NIGHTSHIFT NYC presents the narratives of those who sleep too little and work too much, revealing the soul of a city hidden in the graveyard shift of 24-hour commerce when the sun goes down and the lights come up.

But there is more to the story than found its way into the pages of the book. Here you'll find more stories of the night in New York City and around the country. And we hope you will add your own stories and comments in the months to come. Stay tuned and check back often...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Guest Blog... Paul Moses

A few weeks ago we heard from Cory Cavin about working nights at VH1. This week, it's Paul Moses, a professor of journalism at Brooklyn College. Paul was a reporter for The Associated Press from 1980 to 1984, and then worked for 17 years at Newsday's New York City edition, including service as city editor and City Hall bureau chief. What follows is either an amusing story about working the night desk as a reporter or a harrowing story about working nights at a zoo.

I never knew quite how disoriented I was when I worked the nightshift at The Associated Press’ New York metro desk until the night the polar bear in the Central Park zoo killed a man who had entered its cage. As the “night supervisor,” I worked alone, responsible for reporting all breaking news involving New York City and its suburbs. There was no safety net; everything went out on the wires unedited.

Mostly, it was a job that could be done with the eyes practically closed, as was the case. I would rewrite the major stories in The Times for the wire and freshen stories AP reporters had done for the morning papers so that they could be used in the few afternoon papers still publishing at the time, September of 1982. And through the early morning hours, I would call periodically to the Police Department’s public information desk, where a lone spokesman, Sgt. Ed Burns, updated me on the latest crimes. His light-hearted tone suggested that none of the mayhem was worth my trouble, and I was usually inclined to go along.

Until the morning we had a conversation that went something like this:

Burns: Yeah. We got something. The polar bear in the Central Park zoo ate a guy.

Me: What? You’re --

Burns: No, really. The detectives are questioning the bear now.

Me: You’re kidding?!

Burns: The bear wants a lawyer.

Burns was pretty entertaining (perhaps a quality that his son, the director-actor Ed Burns, inherited from him) and, given my sleepy disorientation near the end of the shift, I couldn’t tell if this was a real story, cop humor or some combination of the two. I eventually got enough details from him to find out that a man who had entered the bear’s cage really had been killed – and it became worldwide news the instant I filed the first bulletin.

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