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Advice on a scheduling issue

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by housejd, Jun 28, 2011.

  1. housejd

    housejd Member

    I know most people here work on the sports side (I once did before switching to news), but I wanted to run a scheduling issue by some outside my newsroom for some insight.

    In a nutshell, in September I was moved from a lower-tier, regional beat to cover the biggest city in our newspaper's coverage area. My previous schedule was Monday through Friday. When I was moved to my new beat, my schedule shifted to include at least two weekends a month and at least four shifts covering night cops. It was described as temporary, but after 10 months, I fear its not.

    That schedule has improved slightly since we hired a new reporter, but I still find myself struggling to keep up our competitor by regularly working weekends, when I'm the only reporter and responsible for all breaking news and whatever feature assignments need to be covered.

    The schedule leaves me off several Mondays, a day when a considerable amount of news develops on my beat. This week, I've already been scooped on two stories by being out of the office at the start of the week (went out of town to visit family). I have to catch up tomorrow, in addition to handling two or three stories I had planned to cover last week.

    It's frustrating to me that my paper seems to be OK with routinely taking a day off from covering one of most important beats. It's especially frustrating considering I work in a two-newspaper town. I used to work from home if I needed to, but I'm tired of working for free and now use my Mondays off just like a normal weekend by going out of town, making other plans, etc.

    My frustration level peaked today after I saw the competitor's website with two stories I could have had today. I'm also sitting on some news tips I received over the weekend, and I'm just hoping nobody else scoops me even though I heard of the stories first. It makes for a stressful day off.

    I've debated speaking with my editor about the schedule, but I don't want to come off as someone who is not a team player or unmanageable. On the other hand, I know our scheduling has diminished important beat coverage and slighted our readers. To me, it's the equivalent of putting your courts reporter on during the weekend when courts are closed. It's wasting a day of reporting.

    After working a better schedule on lesser beat, this new schedule has been both frustrating and morale-depleting. Is it smart to speak up and tell my editors I believe working Monday through Friday would improve our coverage, or just something I should consider part of the norm?

    Thanks for any help/advice/insight and just letting me type out my frustrations. If I'm way off base, please let me know that, too.
  2. JPsT

    JPsT Member

    I would hope you'd be able to tell your editor pretty much what you've posted here. Tell him or her you're willing to keep working the schedule you are, but you think it'd be better if you work Mondays. I'm not saying it'll just get your schedule changed to the way you want it, but it's at the very least worth bring up.
  3. podunk press

    podunk press Active Member

    It's worth talking to your editor about, I think.

    Why can't another reporter cover the stuff you are missing? It's how we get through our nights and weekends. There doesn't seem to be a lot of teamwork here.
  4. FleetFeet

    FleetFeet Member

    housejd, I feel for ya. Really. I was in a similar situation. I was tasked with what I was told was the paper's most important beat (county government) but rotated working weekends every six weeks. That's not too bad - but then mandatory week-long furloughs for all staff each quarter took a hit, plus we lost a couple of reporters and then it became much more frequent than once every six weeks.

    I'm in a one-horse town but there are radio stations and the always-loved anonymous online chatrooms that "break" news before I could get to it after returning to work on a Tuesday morning. I had told my boss I wasn't doing what I was hired to do. Plus, what sense did it make to take the most productive (and often the most well-read in terms of number of hits online) off an assigned beat to cover cops on weekend? And covering cops where I was (I left after this went on for too long) was often a waste of time - not like crime and courts beats of old where you did a little more pounding the pavement and less listening to the scanner and waiting for a news release from local police agencies.

    My guess, though, is that your newsroom (like most others) is short on staff and they need you to take the load off the rest of the staff by taking some weekend shifts. The paper must be OK with getting beat sometimes, then. It's a sign of the times and my guess is it's not going to change anytime soon.

    One alternative I tried for a bit was working four- or six-hour shifts on weekends to give me at least a couple hours on what ordinarily be "off" days. I tired of that rather quickly, though, as I was beginning to suffer from burnout.

    After a while, I came to a decision about a job, career and industry I loved. I needed to have the tasks changed, the weekend shifts excluded or I needed to leave - one of the three in order to still enjoy and have a passion for the work. In the end, I had to leave as there were to be no serious changes anytime soon.

    I don't think you're off base at all. But control what you can or accept what you can't - or move on. I felt the restrictions impaired my work (and attitude, later on) enough that I had to leave.
  5. Baron Scicluna

    Baron Scicluna Well-Known Member

    I'd say it would depend on your editor and your corporate culture if you approach him. There are places that would imply that if you really are concerned about being scooped, then come in to work anyways while working your regular shift. But don't expect to get paid for it.

    Just make sure your place isn't one of those places.

    If the editor just shrugs his shoulders and talks about understaffing, or other BS like that, oh well. Then the paper will keep getting scooped. If the paper doesn't care, then why should you?
  6. Mark2010

    Mark2010 Active Member

    I dealt with something similar at my last shop.

    Let me say that I think rotating weekends is a good thing. Few people prefer to work them, so might as well split it between everyone. One reason I left was that it became like pulling teeth to EVER get a weekend off.

    On the weekends you work, someone else should be available to pick up the beat on your off days. Now, if it turns out Monday is a busier day than some others and you're of us who would prefer not to share a beat any more than necessary, suggest taking a different day off. For many years, I had my off days in the middle of the week.
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