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Dealing with insanely early deadlines

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by crimsonace, Dec 27, 2009.

  1. crimsonace

    crimsonace Active Member

    A few years ago, when I was an SE, I found a few AM papers in our area having "ridiculously early" deadlines of 10 p.m. or 10:30 p.m., which meant covering an evening high school game meant a quick write, a quick file and go home.

    Now, what used to be PM papers have one-upped them. A post on the Jobs board made me think of this, but it's also happened to the local daily where I used to be SE. To save $$, they've combined their printing operations with several other papers (and therefore have to be on the presses at 7 or 8 p.m.), AND go to mail-delivery (therefore papers have to be at the PO by an insane hour during the night).

    So, a growing trend in this industry is to have 5, 6, 7, 8 p.m. deadlines -- those that are WAY too early to get anything fresh in that days' newspaper. So, what we're left with are two-day-old stories and our readers are going "I'm paying for this?" (and then dropping the paper).

    So, here is the question for those who are having to cope with such insane deadlines ... how do you do it?

    A few things I'd do ... anyone else toss in your thoughts:
    • Start thinking as if you have to write two stories from any event you cover -- a brief 6-10" Gannett-style bare-bones raw gamer for the website that is posted immediately after the event, and then a featurized story for print edition. Featurize ALL print gamers, and point readers to the Web for "enhanced coverage" of events.
    • Look ahead, not backward. Too many small papers want to focus on the minutiae of a game that happened two days ago, rather than previewing the game that's happening today. Previews -- especially of football & boys basketball (and of bigger events) -- are going to be a big deal ... and not necessarily the traditional "Podunk is going to play BFE Central this week," but possibly a feature packaged with a preview box/capsule/et al.
    • Columns about local sports. Give yourself a voice that's been stripped a bit by the suits.
    • Use agate more liberally -- run your local stats leaders for multiple sports, conference standings, et al. It's something smaller papers tend to forego, but with 2-day-old news, it becomes your franchise.
    • One thing I had success with was the "theme page." Community sports (submitted photos, youth leagues, local bowling scores) ran one day a week, the football/basketball previews ran one day a week during their seasons (and a local golf page ran during the summer). We did features on local motorsports on a regular basis ...

    These are a few of my suggestions from the sidelines, but come as these deadlines are likely to become reality for sports journalists as publishers keep looking to cut, cut, cut.

    Any other suggestions?
  2. flexmaster33

    flexmaster33 Active Member

    You are right...you have to post your timely coverage to the web only and adjust your print editions to less game coverage...more previews and features with maybe a short gamer sidebar or something.

    I'm lucky enough to still have late deadlines, but operate out of a building that houses our chain's press, so that helps.
  3. crimsonace

    crimsonace Active Member

    Interestingly, the shop I used to work at prints 4 papers a night. The one that houses the press has to go on first, by decree of the publisher, and therefore has the ridiculous deadlines.

    At least for some of the smaller community papers in the area where I live, they've pretty much stayed business as usual -- gamer-focused, et al -- just running everything 2 days late.
  4. flexmaster33

    flexmaster33 Active Member

    It stinks for us to be putting out stories two days late, but it's not like the area "big-circ" paper is going to beat you to much...at least until late in the playoffs.

    I will never understand when I go cover a game and some parent will ask if I'm with the (insert name of big-circ paper) and be completely crest-fallen when I tell them "Oh no, I'm Dave with the [insert local paper]...as if the big circ paper has been to a game in years. :)
  5. apeman33

    apeman33 Well-Known Member

    It's possible our post office will want our paper to them earlier, which is difficult enough for us as is because we're the "other" paper with the press 20 miles away. If my deadline becomes any earlier, it will be impossible to get basketball gamers in since I always have girl/boy doubleheaders and I can't write both stories, even small versions, and edit the photos and finish layout in less than an hour. I am seriously contemplating the one-day delay in the Tu-Fr editions (Our Saturday ed is a combo with the other paper, so it has a later deadline) because I may be down to as little as 30 minutes to do all this.
  6. I Should Coco

    I Should Coco Well-Known Member

    If these stupid new deadlines are partially the result of the post office mailing daily papers, here's a question:

    What happens if a rapidly-going-broke USPS cuts out Saturday delivery?

    I worked for a small daily that was delivered by mail a decade ago -- although we still had 1 a.m. deadlines because we printed it in-house. But I recall that our Saturday "weekend" edition was the most ad-laden (and insert-packed) paper of the week. It would hurt my previous shop A TON if they either had to become a 5-day or had to hire people to deliver due to no mail on Saturday.

    Good luck to all who have to deal with a 5 p.m. deadline for a daily sports section. Ugh.
  7. zebracoy

    zebracoy Guest

    How do you deal with it? Get out of the business.

    I know, it's an asshole response. But no news leads to fewer readers, leading to more cuts and your eventual layoff.
  8. apeman33

    apeman33 Well-Known Member

    Our publisher is going to fight it with whetever resources she can get. But if it comes to pass, these appear to be our options, none of which she likes:

    1) Our Friday paper becomes the weekend combo paper. But she thinks that would be ridiculous to have our weekend paper be Friday's edition.

    2) Hire carriers to deliver the Saturday paper only. But the two main points of switching to mail were a) saving money by eliminating the carriers, who b) were bad at it because our company insisted on having adults do that for liability reasons. Dependable adults were not the type of people who were most often available from 1 to 4 p.m. in the afternoon.

    3) Re-start the Monday paper so that our publications can remain 5-day papers (probably combined with 1 so that there is still the combined weekend edition). But that means the staff would have to work Sundays to get out a Monday-morning paper. She hates the idea of asking the staff to work on Sunday and the Monday paper when we had it was the worst-selling one of the week).

    One way or another, if the post office eliminates Saturday delivery, papers who use all-mail delivery are hosed.
  9. crimsonace

    crimsonace Active Member

    My old shop that has gone to all-mail delivery still uses carriers for the Saturday paper, which means Friday-night prep coverage is still timely.
  10. apeman33

    apeman33 Well-Known Member

    Great. I'm pertty certain that won't happen here. Our unreliable carriers were one of our biggest headaches and we get much fewer angry phone calls now that the subscribers can count on knowing the paper will be in the same place every day instead of in the gutter, behind the bushes or up on the roof (or that it will actually be there, since our carriers had a bad habit of skipping houses).
  11. FuturaBold

    FuturaBold Member

    I like these ideas a lot ... I'd love to hear other suggestions ... What was on your summer golf page -- just curious...

    What do folks think about profiles and Q&A stuff? I've noticed SportingNewsToday doing that every day ... it's a great way to get a lot of faces and names in the paper, and it's "easy content" to put together that folks, I think, would read ... which is the idea, I hear, of putting out a newspaper...
  12. crimsonace

    crimsonace Active Member

    Summer golf page morphed quite a bit. It included, at different times, reviews of local and area golf courses, "Hole of the Week," a golf tip from pros, a feature/profile, local golf course league scores in agate. We had a lot of fun with it.
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