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Crossroads

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Craig Sagers Tailor, May 30, 2016.

  1. Craig Sagers Tailor

    Craig Sagers Tailor Active Member

    After spending around eight years as a sportswriter at newspapers, I left the industry two years ago to go to a marketing agency as an editor. Along with changes in management at the paper that resulted in layoffs (not me), I was getting close to 30 and felt it was time to move on.

    I did some good things, I felt. But I also struggled a lot. I was miserable there and ended up losing my job last month. I had never produced for a agency before and never received the intense editing that work at an agency goes through. This was for a big client, like one of the biggest retailers in the world. The staff on our team was probably bigger than the size of the entire newsroom at my former shop (small daily). I didn't have a lot of expertise in the subjects I was writing about (Here's 10 must-have items for your Easter basket) and didn't give it the attention I probably should have. I was kind of shocked at how unfit I was for life outside sportswriting. I guess it was a dose of reality that writing for a living gives you. I think I'm a fairly ambitious and capable writer but very green as an editor as this point in my life. I didn't really get to utilize skills as a photographer/designer like I did as an SE either.

    Anyway, I'm looking for the next step. I don't have much desire to go back to covering prep games two to three times a week whilst going through the pagination/page design circus at a small daily. At the same time, sports is kind of the backbone of my livelihood. Part of me wants to stay in content marketing to give it another shot, but there's a cut-throat element to it that worries me and I don't want to wind up jobless again. I'm looking for jobs in both fields to keep options open.

    For now, I'm stringing as a photographer and writer for some local papers. I'm also maintaining a father and son-themed sports blog with my Dad. I stayed on as a stringer for the local metro the last two years covering preps and the local D-I school so I kept my foot in the fire.

    I guess what I'm asking as far as thread direction is did anyone get out only to have it not go as planned? I know a few here aren't in the industry anymore. Thanks for any input. Sorry for the long-winded thread.
     
  2. Fredrick

    Fredrick Well-Known Member

    Usually people who escape newspapers like the real world jobs. Did you hate the 8:30 to 5 p.m. aspect of marketing? You escaped and now you are in limbo. I think you're in trouble if you want to stay in writing/editing. Newspapers as you know are a joke right now.
     
  3. TheHacker

    TheHacker Member

    I sense and understand your frustration, and I know what it's like to lose a job. But I think it's all a matter of how you evaluate your experience with the marketing agency. You're thinking of yourself as "unfit" for life outside of sports writing ... but I think it's more likely that you may have been unfit for content marketing.

    The move you made -- from sports at a small daily to an apparently large marketing agency -- is a big leap. You're to be commended for landing that job in the first place. Content marketing makes you "a creative," sort of like Don Draper's team in Mad Men. Not everyone can pull that off. I had a little taste of this when I interviewed for a similar job. I felt really good about the interview -- I'd heard good things about the company and I had cultivated a relationship with one of their recruiters for several months via contact on LinkedIn. But within the first 15 minutes of an interview with three people that lasted for an interminable hour, it was obvious that I wasn't what they were looking for. You either have that flair for spontaneous creative thinking or you don't. And that's very different from the creative flair that allows you to write a well-crafted story about a person or an event.

    So I think it's not a matter of you being "unfit" for anything but sports. It's that you're a better fit for PR/public affairs/communications -- something that more closely resembles what we did in the newsroom.

    It took me the better part of a year of honest-to-goodness daily searching for jobs before I finally landed a job outside of daily journalism. It was editing for a group of websites, and I was clueless about the content, but I was editing articles and I learned as I went, working under a manager who was doing the same, so I was fortunate there. And then I landed a PR job because the manager was looking for someone who could write clearly and concisely.

    If you're interested in staying out of sports/newsrooms, don't get discouraged and keep looking. Realize that marketing and PR are two different things and gear yourself toward looking for jobs that are closer to the work that goes on in a newsroom. I've managed to find two jobs like that and I'm much happier than I ever was as a sports writer/editor. Hang in there.
     
    Craig Sagers Tailor likes this.
  4. Doc Holliday

    Doc Holliday Well-Known Member

    Just a suggestion here, but how about pursuing something in sports information? There's job security, it's similar to sports writing for a newspaper, pay and benefits are significantly better most places. It's basically PR for the school's athletic program. By the way you have stated things, it sounds like a sports information job might be a good fit for you.
     
    steveu and Ace like this.
  5. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    I bet the marketing experience will help with that.
     
    steveu and Doc Holliday like this.
  6. steveu

    steveu Well-Known Member

    I'm going to play the other side of the coin here. Ace and Doc are on to something, but becoming an SID may be harder than you'd think. It's been my experience that some colleges can be very picky when it comes to determining finalists. I'm a vet of nearly 25 years in this business and spent nearly 15 years in a major metro, and most every SID job I've put in for I've heard jack squat back from the colleges. We have an NAIA university here, soon to go NCAA Division II, who never interviewed me for an SID job when I put in for it. Never mind I had half the high school athletic directors saying "hey, you'd be a fantastic candidate!" and telling that to the school's AD.

    Some colleges get so picky. They put "Experience in a sports information office is REQUIRED!" Why? What do you do different than a sports writer? Designing game programs and media guides? It's like designing pages. Done that. Composing pre-game notes and post-game recaps. Done both. Write features on your school's athletes. Ditto. Marketing the school? We're increasingly being called on to market our stories online for page views, audience metrics, etc. So don't tell me I can't do this job. Because I bet I could.

    I could rant on and on, but I don't want to crap on your parade. I'm staying positive too. (Well, trying to anyway.) :)

    I wish you nothing but the best of luck. You've got the gift of writing. You want to tell a story. There's still room for that in this business. Keep looking for jobs. Keep networking. And above all, stay hungry. You never know when someone might need your skill set.
     
  7. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    I hear you, steveu. That's why I think the marketing experience may help instead of straight from newspapers to the SID job.
     
    steveu likes this.
  8. bevo

    bevo Member

    Yeah all those jobs go to 25-year-old kids right out of college who usually interned in a sports information department. Can't think of too many places that actually hire newspaper reporters or editors, even with 20 years of experience. Heck, being over 40 seems to be the kiss of death for most jobs nowadays.
     
  9. Also, be aware the pay and hours for a lot of those SID gigs make newspapers look generous.
     
  10. wicked

    wicked Well-Known Member

    Especially the hours.

    I don't know what it's like now, but a guy I worked with left to go do some SID work at a D-3 about 15 to 20 years ago. Granted, he was No. 2 in a two-person department, but he also was in charge of booking the buses, other travel, etc. He went back to his old gig eventually.

    I think what's more telling about your experience is that you may not be a good fit for a corporate-type environment, which is what you'll find at many metros. It's a culture shock, especially coming from a small paper. At my first job in a bigger newsroom, I felt way out of place. It probably took me close to a year to feel comfortable, and even then at times it was rocky.

    Good luck.
     
  11. Craig Sagers Tailor

    Craig Sagers Tailor Active Member

    Yes. I heard terms like "onboarding" "partnership" "bandwidth" "owning your work" and other nebulous empty corporate phrases for the first time. I was watching Marc Maron's show recently and laughed when he said "people in corporate environments are predators. They're gonna look for weaknesses and attack." I felt like they were building a case to fire me from the day I started. I saw several friends get fired/laid off as well so that ended any notion of increased stability.

    TheHacker's point that it was a pretty large move up is well-taken. I feel like working for a client that big for nearly two years should hold some weight, but I didn't really feel comfortable listing anyone at the agency as a reference. Ideas I would send to lead editors would get dismissed often or wouldn't even get a return email. My performance reviews were poor and I was let go when the second bad one in a row came in. I was pissed that HR didn't allow my manager and I to go over the second review because I felt I was more comfortable this time around. It was basically, "we're letting you go because you've had two unfavorable reviews." The decision wasn't made by my manager, who thought I had some useful skills, but someone higher up who I'd never met and probably didn't know anything about what I did. I imagine stuff like that happens regularly in the corporate world, but it sucked to be the target.

    And I agree with the take that SID work is just as grinding as sportswriting with largely equal pay. I also don't have much experience in that area (though I interned with a pro team in college and volunteered with my alma mater's SID but both those were almost a decade ago).
     
  12. wicked

    wicked Well-Known Member

    It's not easy. I'm a bit older than you and credit you for making the plunge, finding out it might not be for you and then moving forward. As much as I say I want to get out, I'm still not sure if I could pull the trigger on that big of a life change.
     
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