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Being a sports writer in Southern California (LA and SD)

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Firstime Caller, Aug 16, 2006.

  1. There's been quite a few jobs popping up there on the jobs board lately. I'd also suspect more than a few people are interested in moving there. So I thought I'd start a thread where people who have lived in worked there can talk about what it's like to be a sports writer there.

    What kind of opportunities are out there as far as newspapers, magazines, online? What are some good chains/bad chains? Good shops/bad shops? Which ones offer good opportunities for advancement? What's cost of living like? What's traffic like?

    Instead of having these discussions on several different job threads, this is the opportunity for people to weigh in in one place. It's also an opportunity to expand the discussion beyond specific job openings and more about opportunities in Southern California in general.

    Have at it.
  2. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    Broke into the biz in Long Beach, at the Press-Telegram, which is the best paper in the state, always will be (obviously I'm biased). Also my hometown, so it was a great situation. The people I worked with in the sports department are class individuals, starting at the very top with Jim McCormack.

    Also worked in Santa Maria, at the SM Times. Again, good people.

    But I've been gone since '93, so I don't know how life in SoCal has changed.

    Obviously, you get to cover top-tier sports.

    Seize the day.
  3. Claws for Concern

    Claws for Concern Active Member

    Plenty of teams and different sports to cover, great preps (Long Beach area for sure), college and even some good JC stuff.

    I've been at papers in the OC/LA/Long Beach areas for nearly 12 of my 17 years in the biz and the best advice I'd give you is to buy a Thomas Guide to the freeways, streets, etc. You'll definitely need it.

    As for the reporting, there's so many stories to be had in terms of big names and not-so-big names from the past still living here in the area that you'll never run out of great material.

    Please, if you get a writing gig here, cover college baseball and maybe even a sport like water polo. Both sports are woefully underreported here.
  4. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    Great places to live down there, that's for sure.
  5. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    And a helluva lot more affordable than people's perceptions, at least when it comes to renting.

    Owning, of course, is an entire story altogether. Well, maybe an entire book. OK, fine, an entirely different library.

    But still ... renting's definitely affordable here.
  6. Gold

    Gold Active Member

    I have said this before, and I'll try to renew it.

    Renting is better than in the New York area because there are a greater number of rental units. However, people from other parts of the country may get sticker shock.

    I think it is really tough to be a sports writer in southern California. Things have changed since Songbird left southern California in 1993 - I moved here the year before.

    The biggest negative is that Singleton owns seven or eight daily newspapers in the area. That means that instead of having several papers covering a Dodger or UCLA game, there is one person doing it. That cuts down opportunities a lot. I think what happens is that people working at those papers get to a point where they are at a dead end and they aren't as creative and there is an institutional attitude where people don't care - I'm not saying everybody or every paper, but it clearly is a more difficult situation.

    The second problem is the LA Times sports section. I know people disagree with me about how good or bad the LA Times sports section is, but the one thing that is beyond dispute is that they have cut the space for the sports section - that was a memo from Dwyre last year. It is not unusual for the LA Times to have an eight-page section. Before last year, the LA Times wouldn't staff Clippers games on the road and ran AP copy - I know the Clippers were usually pretty weak but it indicates a level of commitment. The rest of the papers, with the exception of the Orange County Register, pretty much seem to play follow the leader.

    And while rents are lower, so are salaries relative to the size of the newspapers.

    I realize this may seem negative, but it's what I see and the papers don't seem as interesting as when I was in the New York area. Disappointing.
  7. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    It's all relative, Gold. If you're coming from BFE or somewhere else, then the situation in SoCal -- even accepting the two major negatives that you mentioned, which are very legitimate -- can still be a huge step up.

    It's never going to be as good as it was, say, in 1993. Or 1983. Or ever. It's just not. Why this idea that it should/could be permeates the board here, I just don't know. Comparing the situation anywhere to a decade or two ago is not a fair comparision. Of course it's going to be different. But it is what it is.

    BTW, the Times isn't going to staff Kings/Ducks road games this upcoming season, either.
  8. MileHigh

    MileHigh Moderator Staff Member

    I put in many years in San Bernardino and a couple in Ontario and have great memories. I have been gone for nearly six years and still know a lot of people there, but like virtually everywhere else, things have changed. But I think Gold said it (mostly) right in that there aren't as many opportunities as there once were. And, yes, the Los Angeles Times isn't what it used to be, but I still think it's great.
  9. Gold

    Gold Active Member

    Granted, space has declined at a lot of places. The point I was making (or trying to make and wasn't clear) is that a local editor has a lot less control - and the situation seems worse in southern California that many other places. All of this happened around 1998 or 1999. Singleton buying a bunch of papers, and Belo buying the Press Enterprise, turning that from a locally-owned paper to a more marginal piece of a corporation which is pretty much a broadcasting company.

    I think you have to compare southern California to other areas with multiple major league sports teams - you can't really compare it to a place like Las Cruces, New Mexico (one of my thoughts for a retirement place). And lets take Las Cruces - is doing preps in one of the southern California places better than doing preps in Las Cruces? Probably. Is it better than one of the papers in suburban areas of Philadelphia or Chicago or Kansas City? I would thing there is less opportunity in southern California than in those three cities.

    It's not a sense of nostalgia that "the papers were better in the good old days". If you look at old newspaper from the early part of the 20th century, I don't think anyone would think they were better. And I think in the 70s and 80s, there was an effort at least to try to make papers better.

    I mean, products are supposed to get better. Ipods are better than cassettes and eight-track players. Cars generally have more features and get better. Computers have more features and power. To accept that newspapers will only get worse as a philosophy is dangerous.
  10. SoCalScribe

    SoCalScribe Member

    Even with Singleton dividing and conquering -- and forcing an awful lot of very talented people to take jobs elsewhere in SoCal that are further down the ladder than they should be -- there are still a large number of jobs here.

    That said, preps are preps, pros are pros...and the all the window dressing that makes SoCal a glamor spot aren't exactly things that your average journalist experiences on a daily basis. If you accept a bad gig, I'm guessing the positives to living here won't outweigh the fact that you hate your job. But, on the plus side, if you accept a quality gig, the area isn't going to bring you down. Unless, of course, your idea of home ownership fails to include the words "High Desert" or "condominium." :p
  11. Football_Bat

    Football_Bat Well-Known Member

    Thanks for checking in, Art Bell. ;D

    I love SoCal and hope to go back one day, but I'm gonna wait for the housing bubble to burst and / or after The Big One before I take the plunge.
  12. Birdscribe

    Birdscribe Active Member

    It's going to have to burst like the Big Bang for most sports writers not collecting a check from the Los Angeles Times to afford a home here without a well-heeled spouse.

    Unless you want to live in the Antelope Valley, the fastest growing area in SoCal.
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