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Afternoon paper vs. Morning paper

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by JordanA, Jan 13, 2014.

  1. JordanA

    JordanA Member

    So I currently work for a morning paper, and the hours pretty much fit me. I've got an opportunity to take a job at an afternoon paper, and am curious to hear from some people who have done sports at an afternoon paper on what it's like.

    This isn't about content or anything like that. I'm curious as to the hours. At the job I've been offered, I'd be working 7 a.m. to noon-ish, then going home before coming back to cover whatever game is that night ... although I'm sure plenty of people on this board are familiar with how it works.

    My question is this: How did those of you who have worked at a p.m. paper in sports like that schedule? It would seem to me working the morning, going home, going to whatever prep practice is shortly after school, going back home, then going to a game would just make for a schedule that is a pretty big pain in the ass.

    Am I overthinking it? I like how the a.m. paper I work at is just the straight 3-midnight shift. I've never had experience working at a p.m. paper, so I'm curious to see what those who have done it have to say about it.
  2. HejiraHenry

    HejiraHenry Well-Known Member

    My observation, from having worked (not in sports) at a p.m. paper is that working in sports at a p.m. is one of the worst gigs there is for trying to have, you know, a life outside of work.

    There are internal clock issues to consider as well. I never quite got used to getting up at 4:30 a.m. and getting ready to be at work at 5:30 a.m. Back in the day, that's about the time I'd be winding down to get some sleep.
  3. Football_Bat

    Football_Bat Well-Known Member

    PM papers are the worst for sports. You come in early to do your section, go home and sleep, then come back at night to cover a game on some nights. Needless to say, this makes a long commute out of the question. It's probably best to just do your section that night and hope nothing breaks in the morning.

    For PM papers that have fired their carriers and are mail delivery only, your Tuesday night gamer may hit your customers' mailboxes by Friday.
  4. BurnsWhenIPee

    BurnsWhenIPee Well-Known Member

    This definitely was my experience. You're working on 4-5 hours sleep most nights, then working a morning shift and an evening shift. Got real old, real fast, and it wasn't a coincidence that 90 percent of the people I worked with on those shifts were single with little to no social life.

    The only positive I could say is because of deadline pressures, it's a little easier working for an afternoon paper. More time to put together a good gamer, then even tweak it in the morning most times. And chase down things that you didn't get the night before from games you didn't cover.
  5. GidalKaiser

    GidalKaiser Member

    It depends on the paper's size and who you have to work with. My second job was as a paper that was, for two of my five years there, an afternoon paper. I also was a one-man staff. That was a big key.
    Since I was a night owl, I'd map out the pages, if not lay them out completely, allowing for local artwork to fit in a dedicated space. At first, I'd come back in the morning to get the art and make changes only if there was a major story that happened that morning (also helped I was in the Mountain time zone for that).
    After one sports season/school year, I arranged with the photographer to come into the office after the game and spend maybe an hour getting me artwork so I could put my entire section together by 1 or 2 a.m., put it on the ME's desk (after correcting proofs myself), and arrange to have him give a second proofread and ship with more changes in the morning.
    Now if you're on a multiple-person staff (and I doubt there are many afternoon papers that are in that situation) and have someone to answer to, that is a good conversation to have before taking it.
  6. Shoeless Joe

    Shoeless Joe Active Member

    I loved it. There is no way I would have ever worked for morning paper because of the perpetual second shift.
    I'd go in at 5:30 a.m. to write anything I had, and we'd do that day's pages. I was usually out of the office by 11-11:30. I'd have the afternoon to myself, which always made scheduling dentist appoints, taking care of business, etc. very convenient. Then, I'd go back out and cover whatever needed to be covered that afternoon. Basketball season was the only time it was really a pain because the go back out and cover part lasted until 10:30 or so. Otherwise, going back out to cover cover soccer, baseball, etc. was from about 4:30-7. The best days were when there wasn't anything to be covered, and I'd be done for the day before noon.
    We never missed anything local because we took call ins from coaches before school started. It was easy getting in touch with people. An afternoon paper doing its layout the night before is a disservice to the readers if you leave a game out because you couldn't get in touch with someone or a college/pro team is playing on the West Coast.
  7. boundforboston

    boundforboston Well-Known Member

    I'm sure many people would say all newspapers are dying, but I'd bet afternoon papers are dying quicker. Might be something to consider.
  8. Bamadog

    Bamadog Well-Known Member

    As probably the most experienced P.M.er around (I've worked at four in my career), the cliche is it has its advantages and disadvantages.

    • Afternoons off, most of the time.
    • You get in print a lot of stuff that breaks in the morning. For us with an earlier deadline (10:30 a.m.), not so much anymore.
    • Most of your gamers are written without a deadline, so you've got time to tweak and perfect. And featurize.
    • Most afternoon papers give you holidays off, which is nice.

    • Getting up at 5:30 a.m. to go to work. This is especially mortifying when you covered a game the night before. It's a chore. Reveille in the military was 6:30, except in boot camp.
    • The double on Friday. If you're a 7-day week paper, you put out Friday's edition in the morning and Saturday's that night. It's a bear most of the year and an absolute gut-punch during football and basketball season.
    • Filling the paper with old stuff. If you have basketball and football roundups in Monday's paper, they'll be old by the time your readers pick up the paper, at lunch (why we have a deadline earlier than our original 11:30) or when they come home from work. So followups and features are a must.
    • Holidays off means you do the holiday paper the day before, so that day turns to a double (see Fridays).
    • It's very difficult if you have a spouse. My wife works a normal job 8-4:30, which means if I'm off that night, we get to spend from 5:30 until we go to bed, which is pretty early if you're working the desk the next morning. We don't get as much quality time together during the week. And when I have to cover a game that night, I'm lucky if I see her for a few hours after writing my story.

    I've worked at an AM as a desker and it was a beast too. Sure, I had two days off a week in a row, but I never got a weekend off and it led to a lot of bad habits. I tend to have trouble powering down from a desk shift and stayed up at home until 3 a.m. That meant when I woke up the next day, it was time to go to work just a few hours later. So there are advantages and disadvantages.
  9. Editude

    Editude Active Member

    I enjoyed the PM pace, especially when one I worked for didn't print until after lunch, meaning that split shift didn't start until 7 a.m. or so. Yes, the AM on Saturday/Sunday made for some crazy Fridays, and time with a better half ... not so much.
  10. Mark2010

    Mark2010 Active Member

    Same here.

    I did some pretty regular stringing work for a PM paper several years ago. I liked the fact that you could cover an event, go eat something at a leisurely pace, take time to transcribe your taped interview and write the story without rushing so much. I routinely would write my story between midnight and 2 AM, email it to the office and then go to bed. I don't think I could do that with a 6 AM shift.

    Honestly, I think I would structure my schedule pretty much the same way I would at an AM paper, just without the tight deadlines..... come to the office, do the pagination and be done in the early hours of the morning and then go home and sleep. I'm a night person and I work better late at night than early in the morning and I need more than just 4-5 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

    The only difference might be during a rare event like an overseas Olympics, when you have events taking place at odd hours, if your paper has space to run stuff like that.
  11. Mark2010

    Mark2010 Active Member

    It might be worth a separate thread and I know it's far from the only job that works odd hours, but it really does affect your entire life.

    For many, many years, I'd be at the office until 12:30-1:30 am. When I got off, there weren't many places open, so I'd usually come home. Problem is, I was too amped up to go straight to bed. So I'd often watch something I'd taped earlier that day or play on the computer or work on a story for a couple of hours, then go to bed around 3 AM or so. (One place I lived, we had a train that passed several blocks away every morning at 3:15 am. Whenever I heard the train whistle, I knew it was time to go to bed.)

    Then I'd sleep until late morning the next day and would have 3-4 hours in the middle of the day to do whatever before going to the office. Works much better if one is single, for sure. I've seen a number of married people quit the business because the schedule drove them nuts and/or spouse threatened a divorce.
  12. murphyc

    murphyc Well-Known Member

    I did the p.m. paper thing once and that was enough. Two main things to consider are the size of the staff and your marital/family status, as others have mentioned. When I did it, we had a two-man sports desk at a five-day daily. We got into the habit of taking turns who did most of the layout, with the other filling odds spaces or looking for wire stories. I would get in by 6:30 most mornings, pages usually proofed by 10 at the latest. Start working on stuff for the next day/week or help proof news pages if needed, usually home for an early lunch. I tried to sneak in a nap most days, then off to cover a game in the evening. After the game, watch some TV with my wife and then go in to work on stories, pics and pages. That usually lasted until early morning hours, then about four hours of sleep and start the whole process over again.
    With a bigger staff, you might not be covering games in the evening or you may not have to do layout. I would have loved that, but that wasn't an option. With a one- or two-man desk, for most people it gets real old, real fast.
    It was tough on our marriage. I couldn't imagine doing it with children. You have limited time at home and, at least in my case, I was constantly exhausted so I probably wasn't the most pleasant person to be around most days. Plus with weekend games/tournaments and going in Sunday night to get Monday's pages done, there's practically no recharge time.
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