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Best place to be: large metropolitan or small daily/weekly?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by TGO157, Aug 20, 2015.

  1. TGO157

    TGO157 Active Member

    On paper, pun absolutely intended, this seems like a no-brainer. Being at a larger paper such as the Sun-Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, OC Register, etc. brings a larger audience, larger exposure and larger following. Oh, and the chance to write on big-boy pro and college beats. Great chance to get noticed by a digital media giant, too.

    But with the print newspaper profession hurting and staff rooms shrinking, would it be better (really, "safer") to be at a smaller newspaper where the staff size is already low?

    I've worked at small newspapers -- ranging from twice-weekly ones to dailies -- my entire career (only five years) and I've yet to be laid off. Now, that might be a product of leaving before I'm canned from cuts, or it could be that I'm so valuable and basically indispensable at a smaller newspaper compared to a larger one.

    At a 70K circulation paper (I've never worked at one, so I'm guessing here), the sports department size might be 6-8 full-time staffers. Higher-ups might think you can cut a person or two when needed and the sports staff still survives, just not able to do AS MUCH.

    At a 20K circulation paper, it might be 3. Cut one and suddenly it's skeleton crew.

    At a 10K circulation paper, it might be 2 full-timers. Cut one and you might as well not have a sports section.

    This is going on the assumption that management is a little more hesitant to completely shut down a smaller paper and close shop than cut positions from a larger one and keep it going with a flat tire (or two).

    This is a long ramble, but I think the premise is clear: Is it safer/better right now to be at a smaller newspaper, in a smaller sports staff, than a larger one? If this question has been answered a million times, then I apologize. The question hit me a day or two ago when I heard about recent layoffs at a "dream" paper (around 90K circ) and saving a sports job over a news one at a previous shop (12K circ).
  2. LanceyHoward

    LanceyHoward Well-Known Member

    I think it depends on the location of a small newspaper. I believe that a lot of small newspapers are going to be rolled up into consolidated newsrooms. I could see the larger paper and firing the sports staff because the beats basically overlap. But if your newspaper is geographically isolated enough to be safe from that then a small paper might be better. I am not sure in these times how many papers are sufficiently that isolated. Look at what has happened in Alabama with Huntsville and Birmingham.
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2015
  3. Hokie_pokie

    Hokie_pokie Well-Known Member

    Just my $.02 obviously, but I've heard others in the industry agree that the papers most likely to survive beyond the next 10-15 years are the biggest of the big -- NYT, WSJ, etc. -- and the small local dailies/weeklies that continue to provide unique content with relatively low overhead.

    The problem with that picture is that it basically eliminates everyone in the middle, and that's a crapload of jobs gone.

    Frankly, if you're younger than about 50, by far the "best" place to be is "not working for a newspaper."
  4. BDC99

    BDC99 Well-Known Member

    All of this. It really is a no-brainer. It's safer to work at a smaller local paper, both because they are likely to survive longer and the staffs are smaller and hopefully more stable. And I type this as one of the ones in Hokie's middle. :(
  5. cjericho

    cjericho Well-Known Member

    I'll go with small daily, covering preps and getting paid like you're on an NFL beat at a major market.
  6. MNgremlin

    MNgremlin Active Member

    I don't consider either of those small or isolated.
  7. LanceyHoward

    LanceyHoward Well-Known Member

    I agree.

    The point I did not clearly make is that these two Alabama newspapers are located 96 miles apart and have now printed in the same building and have a consolidated sports desk. My understanding is that the consolidation has lead to head count reductions. So publishers are starting to combine desks even though in markets are separated by almost 100 miles.

    If you work a small paper how much of your content is different than the closest similarly sized competitor. It would probably cost less to combine the two newspapers and then run them as a combined entity. In sports the two papers probably cover the same pro teams and major college teams. The only difference is preps and other town sports. I think you could survive with less staff in sports in a combination. There are other economies in design, production, etc.

    As papers continue to lose revenue publishers will continue to bail out. The logical buyer will be the owner that can operate the property the most profitably. That is usually a nearby newspaper. And a bloodbath will ensue if there is a consolidation.

    If you can find a paper isolated enough that there is a no competitor nearby that can be consolidated then you might be safe. But how newspapers are more than 100 miles from another paper? And Huntsville and Birmingham have already consolidated from that distance.
  8. bevo

    bevo Member

    Anyone with any experience can find a job at a small paper just about anywhere. The problem is the pay. I'd rather make $45,000 at a larger paper than $25,000 at Podunk Daily News. You would have to be unemployed a long time to make up the difference in lost pay.
  9. MNgremlin

    MNgremlin Active Member

    he consolidation is taking place where coverage areas overlap. The miles really aren't important in regards to the AL papers because the coverage areas are much the same, I'd guess. In rural areas, even if two dailies are only 60 miles apart, they won't consolidate because they won't be saving any resources because the overlap is only in a few small towns.
  10. steveu

    steveu Well-Known Member

    Even though I didn't get the job in Aberdeen, I could say papers like the American News (13K circulation) have a solid chance of survival. Those type of papers are literally the only game in town and where people go to get their news. Papers in smaller towns and larger cities do have a good shot.
  11. MNgremlin

    MNgremlin Active Member

    Great example. They're another paper that's 90 miles from the next daily. Even if the Argus Leader circulates up there (do they?), they'll never cover the local news and sports like the AAN can and does.
  12. wicked

    wicked Well-Known Member

    The paper where you won't get laid off.
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