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Beat writers on the road

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Mark2010, Jan 29, 2009.

  1. Mark2010

    Mark2010 Active Member

    With all the talk of travel cutbacks, I am wondering how many papers are sending pro and/or college beat writers on extended road trips this year.

    For example, would The Tennesseean send a Nashville Predators' beat guy with the team on its current trip through Western Canada in Jan.-Feb? Or, given the cost, late hour of the games in the central time zone and other happenings, decide to just go with AP on this trip?

    Now, I'm not picking on Nashville. It's just one that caught my attention. Buffalo's on a similar trip right now. I'm sure going from Boston to Philly is one thing, but Nashville to Vancouver/Calgary/ Edmonton in the dead of winter with other stuff happening? I'm sure I can find other examples from the NBA and college basketball as well.

    Baseball, I understand, might be slightly different since there are games almost every day and you'd probably get more of your money's worth.

    Just wondering if those of you who happen to live or work in a major metro area have noticed anything different.
  2. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Well-Known Member

    From a cost effectiveness standpoint, a longer trip is usually less expensive, and thus more "worth it," than a shorter trip. Plus all the side benefits and needs of being around your team are greater on an extended trip.

    It's the single game trips in the middle of the week, at the highest airfares, that should be double- and triple-thought in these financial times. One stringer and one night away from the team for your beat guy is way more tolerable than dropping $600-$900 for a gamer and notes. Especially with a growing pool of capable, available freelancers, either folks out of regular work or those seeking moonlighting to build up the cash reserves.
  3. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    The Arizona Republic doesn't travel to all of the Phoenix Coyote's road games, even to L.A. and Anaheim where flights on Southwest are pretty cheap.
  4. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    Great point. Maybe the drastic cuts like failing to cover a Super Bowl wouldn't have to be made if there was some more selectivity in the dog days of regular seasons in some sports. NBA's a good example, where a team might have a long homestand interrupted by a random midweek road game.
  5. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    A zillion years ago I was covering NBA preseason and they had one of those lovely stretches where they were playing in non-NBA cities. To cover two preseason games in two very small cities was going to cost the paper roughly $3,000 because of all of the connections into small cities. It was eight flights total to get to both games and back.

    I went to the SE and said, "Look, this is insane, let's just hire a stringer and save the money."

    That was the first and only time in 12 years in this business that I asked off a trip. They made me go. Our competition hired stringers in both cities. It cost them $150-$200 to cover both games.
  6. SixToe

    SixToe Active Member

    Mizzou, those are the situations when, even in times of prosperity, a good manager would agree with you, hire the stringer and tell the upper management you suggested the idea that saved them money.

    There are many sports departments today that would love to have an extra $3,000 for travel. Choosing wisely to save in January or February for an extra trip or writer in August or October is just the smart thing to do.
  7. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    I worked at one paper that spent a ton of money one year because the local team went to the Super Bowl and we sent 27 writers to cover it.

    The following year, we started covering shit that we had never traveled for before because my boss didn't want to have a huge discrepancy between the previous year's budget and the current one. We had a guy at the NFL draft in NY even though the local team didn't pick until the second half of the first round. We covered the NHL draft for the first and only time. It was insane.
  8. Some Guy

    Some Guy Active Member

    I think we will most definitely see some papers cut back on travel even on the pro beats. I know Charlotte isn't traveling to every game with the Bobcats. Oklahoma City only travels the day of with the Thunder, meaning they miss all road shootarounds. But at least they are there for the game, I guess.

    I think, for the most part, you have to take into account what team we're talking about here. You can maybe get away with not traveling if you're covering a bad team that people are naturally going to care less about.

    The LA Times has actually doubled up on the Lakers this season, sending two beat guys on the road, but doesn't always travel with the Clippers. That's probably the right sacrifice to make, although if the Clips ever decide to fire Dunleavy in the middle of a road trip, it would suck not to be there.

    When you're talking about the pro beats, hiring a stringer doesn't always cut it. Yeah, maybe your stringer can turn a half-decent game story, but is he going to get in there pre-game and ask the coach why he benched the star point guard the fourth quarter the game before, or other newsy things like that? If news breaks on the road, and you're relying on a stringer, you're probably fucked.

    I'd also hate to turn this into a slippery slope, to where we're using stringers more often than our beat guys on the road. Do that, and you've just surrendered the one competitive advantage we still have left over TV, bloggers and other competition -- the advantage that only comes with being there.
  9. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    We're at the point now where with the exception of NFL and major college football every trip needs to be weighed separately.

    If you're covering a baseball team that has been out of playoff contention since July, do you really need to make that west coast trip? I'm sure there are a few markets where you couldn't dream of missing a baseball trip, but I'm guessing that's the case in only a handful of cities on a consistent basis.
  10. GBNF

    GBNF Active Member

    That had to be a typo. Twenty-seven? No. No way. WHY?
  11. hockeybeat

    hockeybeat Guest

    Speaking as a FT freelancer...

    I spend my time studying schedules and team records before sending out e-mails to SEs. If there's a team out of playoff contention, I'll offer to do gamer, notes, off-day story, a feature if there's something there.

    Also, where I am, it is somewhat easier to do a bit of traveling. I can get to multiple major cities within several hours, so I offer that as well.
  12. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    It didn't used to be that uncommon if the local team was there. We were putting out over 100 pages a day of special sections. There was a ton of advertising and the only people there who didn't pull their weight were a couple non sports editors who had no business going in the first place and that wasn't included in the 27. I think we had 27 from sports, six photographers and five people who were not from sports.
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