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Breaking points

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Stitch, Apr 26, 2011.

  1. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    For those who left the biz full time like myself, was there any one moment that led you to leave besides getting fired or laid off?

    There are two moments that come in mind for me, one was missing my mother-in-law's funeral several hundred miles away because she died when I was on vacation and I would have missed two weeks of work instead of one. It's a decision I continually regret.

    The other was taking my wife to the ER when she was extremely dehydrated with flu systems on the night the basketball tab was due. I worked in a two-person sports department. I felt guilt about missing work, but really shouldn't have because I worked my tail off for that paper.

    Those moments, plus chest pains and continual stress, made the decision to leave pretty easy in the end. I didn't want to head down a road where I would die of a heart attack in 5-to-10 years.
  2. UNCGrad

    UNCGrad Member

    Another summer of Little League All-Star parents, followed by another prep for a high school football tab, and the dread of another year of covering bad prep sports with the overbearing parents who never go away. I could always handle criticism, especially of my regular column, but bitching about the gamer and coverage because the paper switched to a regional hub and slashed deadlines by 3-4 full hours in a span of less than a year was it.

    And that was from both readers and bosses.

    Finally, I couldn't handle the idea of covering prep games into my late 30s in a business that's dying and won't figure a way out until it's too late. That was the final straw of all. No offense to the prep guys who love it; for me, I was tired of Johnny and Jane's soccer game in 30 degrees and wind, only to have it end after a ridiculous deadline.

    Went the SID route, and while the hours are tough for eight months, the 3 1/2 (and over Christmas) months "off" are gifts straight from the heavens above. Now I'm still involved in sports, in media that's adapting quickly to technology and writing pieces that garner praise at every turn. Not one word of criticism over writing in a year. Not one. You don't know how good that is until you experience it.
  3. Petrie

    Petrie Guest

    UNC, that last paragraph sounds extremely appealing, probably because it's something I'm honestly considering. I love sports and I love to write, and the sports writing itself is fun and challenging. But there are so many other variables that make things less far less than desirable (I start every week one step closer to leaving it all behind), and I've seriously been pondering grad school or the SID route.

    I'm getting married next summer, probably on my 27th birthday. My fiancee will be 26 then. We want to start a family soon. I want something that allows me to not only support that family, but also be able to spend time at home with said family. My guess is, at some point, that passion will fully replace my passion for the craft and I'll move on. Hell, it's almost there now.
  4. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    I was covering the NCAA Tournament three hours from where I live. The off day was my son's first birthday. I asked my boss if I could drive home on the off-day to be there. I told him I would have my off day story done in advance. I was there as a columnist, not as the beat writer.

    He said no. Didn't even think about it. It didn't matter to him that because of my status with the chain, I was not required to cover anything other than the NFL. Every time I was asked to help out with something, I agreed, even though I didn't have to.

    "I've lost track of how many of my kids' birthdays I've missed." He said like it was some kind of badge of honor.

    The day before I left, I was in the office and by some fluke I ran into the Executive Editor, who I saw about once a year and he said, "Hey, isn't your kid almost one?"

    I said, "Yeah, his birthday is Saturday."

    He said, "Cool, you'll be able to come back and not miss it."

    "I looked at my boss and said, "Can I?"

    The executive editor said, "Of course you can..."

    My boss chewed me out for "Going over his head."

    I remember thinking, "I can't do this shit anymore."

    A few months later I was bought out. It was not by choice, and I struggled with being away from it for awhile, but I'm so much happier now it's not even funny.
  5. UNCGrad

    UNCGrad Member

    My poor successor today had a top story today about the local rec league soccer program keeping score for its 6- and 7-year-old league games this weekend. It's for a thing called the Kangeroo Cup. Wheeeeeeee!

    Top sports story. Under the banner. Teased from the front.
  6. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    That's worse than mine. I would have quit the next day.
  7. dirtybird

    dirtybird Active Member

    I recall a publisher hammering the importance of community sports, local rec leagues, Pop Warner football and little league in the paper's sports coverage during a job interview.

    I'll call it a different sort of breaking point.
  8. UNCGrad

    UNCGrad Member

    Well, it DOES appear he made deadline...
  9. SoCalDude

    SoCalDude Active Member

    I got right to that point once ... about 25 years ago.
    Because of a merger and cutbacks, I lost my major beats. The sports editor was a nut job, micromanager with no news sense. I was assigned 2 features a day, so 10 a week, which meant they were lousy. I was feeling that my ability was being wasted and the stories I was being forced to write were a waste of my time.
    One of my assignments was to do a feature on a guy who was a swimming instructor at the local Jewish community center (the SE was Jewish, no coincidence). This guy was picked to coach the team at the Maccabiah Games or junior games or something in Israel, but there were no other locals competing. When I arrived at the interview, the guy was great. First thing he said to me was, "Why do you care about me? I'm nothing. This is a nothing story." I liked him right away and BS'd that we're always interested in local people doing good things. Truthfully, this should have been a two-line brief that he was picked to coach this team.
    So I did my obligatory 25 inches. The guy was cool and funny. He told me a story about him and his friend as teenagers one summer going to Hawaii "to be lifeguards." He said, "Here we were, a couple of Jew boys going to an island full of lifeguards, wanting to be lifeguards. We wound up being towel boys."
    When the subject himself knows he's not a story and I had to BS him that he was, that's when I seriously thought about pulling the plug. I knew a guy who owned a photo processing lab and considered begging him for a job. Another friend was a computer hardware expert. I thought about asking him if I could buy into his company and do grunt work. But I never did.
    At that time, I had just gotten together with the woman who eventually became my wife. Things were so good away from work that all the bad shit at work didn't bother me as much. Then, the SE got fired, that was a glorious day. The SE at paper we had merged with became SE of both papers. He knew me and my ability. He restructured the staff and I got a couple of major beats.
    That is as close as I came to quitting the business.
    Now, it seems as though the business is trying to quit me, but having survived 5 layoffs, I'm still at it.
  10. EagleMorph

    EagleMorph Member

    I'd be interested to know what kind of shops those who left the business were working at when they hit their breaking point and their role. Copy desk? Preps reporter? NFL beat?

    I'd wager a lot of the burnout comes on the desk or in small shops.
  11. UNCGrad

    UNCGrad Member

    Small shop for me, admittedly. Small shop sports editor for more than 10 years.
  12. Brad Guire

    Brad Guire Member

    I had an interview like that once. Upon hearing that stuff, I immediately torpedoed my chances of being hired.
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