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Covering games on your own time

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Stitch, Jul 18, 2008.

  1. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    I've seen plenty of jobs ads for smaller papers that say that there are opportunities to cover big league games (i.e. on your own dime or not being paid for travel time)

    Is there anyone here that does that? It seems that it cheapens the work that people do. I would love to cover the NFL or D-I football, but I don't want to do it on my own time.

    Any thoughts on why someone would want to do it off the clock?
  2. Wonderlic

    Wonderlic Member

  3. Dan Hickling

    Dan Hickling Member

  4. Batman

    Batman Well-Known Member

    I've done it twice, I think. Once was an NFL game, just for the experience and to see what it was like. I don't think I even wrote a story, just went through the motions.
    The other was a college football game involving my alma mater. I just wasn't going to get another chance to see them play that year, so I went. Would've written a story, too, but my editor at the time was kind of a douche and said they'd rather use the AP stuff -- even though I was already there and practically begging to write something.
    I should add that both of those were in my first couple years in the business. Now? Fuck that. Our closest NFL team is 3 hours away, which means getting up at 6 a.m. for a noon kickoff, or not getting home until midnight for a 3 p.m. kickoff. Same with the big colleges. And with the price of gas what it is, I ain't shelling out $100 to drive there unless I get to scream my head off in the stands.
  5. Overrated

    Overrated Guest

    Experience, clips, networking, proving to one self you can hang with the big boys.
  6. Gold

    Gold Active Member

    I generally agree it isn't a good thing to cover a game on your own time.

    However, if you can tie a freelance article with it or make some contacts which can benefit your career, it might be a good idea.
  7. dixiehack

    dixiehack Well-Known Member

    I did training camp and (most) home games for an NFL team one fall. Did it off the clock with no mileage check (granted this was in the days of $1.50/gallon gas). Training camp consisted of me waking up at the butt-crack of dawn, doubling the speed limit on two-lane backroads through the middle of a swamp, screeching into the facility 2.5 hours later, sweating like a pig through practice, racing back across town to the team hotel for lunchtime player availabilities, then loading up on Mountain Dew for the drive back to the paper to begin my shift at 4 p.m.

    It was the best time I ever had in this business. I generated lots of original copy for the paper (none of it earth-shattering by any means), but more importantly it made me a better writer for my regular duties. I didn't do journalism in college (at the time I still didn't have any degree), so I didn't get to do the major college coverage that many other journalists cut their teeth on while in school. I wanted to push myself to be better, and if the opportunity to take the step up from preps ever came (it didn't) I wanted to have a clue how things worked.
  8. TheSportsPredictor

    TheSportsPredictor Well-Known Member

    Because it's your only way to do it.

    First place I worked at gave us the opportunity to cover any of the Pittsburgh teams. On your own time, of course. Which was fine. If you wanted to try to build up clips, prove that you could handle such stuff, then you would do it.

    An enterprising chap these days could cover the hell out of something on his days off, find some freelance opportunities, maybe even break a story or two for his paper, and use that to rise up. Plenty of networking opportunities at the ballpark as well.
  9. Baltimoreguy

    Baltimoreguy Member

    It's a great way to get clips and establish your chops. If you're covering preps (or even a small college) for a small paper, they'll never pay you to cover the big leagues and they shouldn't. It would be a waste of resources. But if you're ambitious, and your editor is willing to let you use the paper in order to score a credential, then why not do it?
  10. zebracoy

    zebracoy Guest

    The biggest thing is getting the credentials. If you can't get the credential, of course, you can't get in, and though I've never tried it, I'm sure the response would be, "We already have so-and-so/wire copy for that game. We don't need it."

    I was fortunate enough to find an event a couple weeks ago that I really wanted to attend and my paper wasn't going to staff it. It was about 3 hours away, so it wasn't necessarily reasonable for us to do so. What did I do? Poked around to a few other interested papers, found someone who was interested in the freelance work, took the day off and went.

    Granted, I didn't go on my own dime, per se, but I didn't get reimbursed for the mileage either.

    That being said, I don't know that it's ever a good idea to cover a game on your own time or out of your own pocket. Depending on the circumstances, that could be a lot of money you throw away just to go. On the other hand, if people are depending on the coverage, or if you can make the contacts with other people, then it might make it worth it in the long haul.

    It's a balance you've got to strike, as with much of the industry.
  11. Pete Incaviglia

    Pete Incaviglia Active Member

    Yup. I haven't done it. But I considered it. I even went so far as to email a beat writer I enjoy reading and asked if I could "sort of shadow him" and he said "hop on board!" He gave me all the team contacts, told me to tell them he sent me their way.

    Very, very cool in my eyes.
  12. Wonderlic

    Wonderlic Member

    And then you didn't go?

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