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Deciding on making a change

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by huntsie, Jan 15, 2009.

  1. huntsie

    huntsie Active Member

    Here's what's in front of me, and I'm wrestling with it. Anyone who has been there, or can give me some perspective and some distance, or think of something I might not be thinking of, Please help.

    I work as part of a three man sports department for a $20-$30,000 daily. There's event coverage and desk work, as well as a weekly sports column every Friday. I enjoy what I do and who I work with, but I've been doing it 20 plus years. It can be mundane.

    I also do a weekly family/slice of life type column which appears each Saturday. Been doing it for going on 10 years now. I like it and readers seem to like it.

    Our paper is spiralling and in need of some new ideas. One idea they've hit on -- and which I have suggested for several years -- is a city column. It's a blank canvas. Can be issue or personality or feature driven. It's been offered to me. It would start out once a week, but I know I could do it well enough and make it popular enough to expand it quickly to three or four times a week.

    There are several elements to my dilemma:
    I'd like to do the city column. I'd like to keep doing the family column. But my "credibility" and my "identity" if you will, come from sports. To those who have done it or are doing it, are you "taken seriously" as a columnist if you suddenly move up in the paper? Or to a new audience who doesn't recognize your sports work do you get "Who is this guy?"

    We're a small news room. You know how sports is perceived among the newsies -- it's "only sports." This new gig would be the envy of the people who do "real news." Did anyone in a comparable situation get envy or jealousy from those who thought they deserved the gig?

    In the new gig, how much -- and how soon -- do you go back to your sports contacts and tell the kind of feature stories/columns that you'd like to tell without "falling back into" your sports background. I can honestly name about six good feature stories I could write as columns in this new setting that I simply never had time to work on because we're busy keeping up with the day to day.

    Sorry if this sounds self indulgent or egotistical or whatever. Honestly, I'm not that and I'm not trying to be. I'm 51 years old, I've been here for a while, our paper needs an injection of something new, and I think I can give it to them. But there are some trap doors and I want to weigh everything and consider things before I go too far forward with it.

    Thanks for your patience. Fire when ready
  2. FileNotFound

    FileNotFound Well-Known Member

    Can you write? That's all we need to know. Sports, news, features, whatever, doesn't matter. If you can tell a story, tell it.

    Envy and jealousy is part of the game, no matter what happens. It sounds like it'd be good for your career and good for your readers. Go for it.
  3. pallister

    pallister Guest

    If you write well, the "taken seriously" part will take care of itself. If what you write interests your readers, they won't give a damn where it came from. They'll just want to read it.
  4. DirtyDeeds

    DirtyDeeds Guest

    Sounds like you might be ready to make the change, if things are getting mundane. It might be good for you. And definitely don't worry about what others think. If you do it well, people will read it and your co-workers will respect it. Might take a little time to build that up, but it'll come.
  5. micke77

    micke77 Member

    Huntsie....geez, sounds like you are pondering the very thing that i am thinking about suggesting to our news room when we have a start-of-the-new-year pow wow next week. we are very similar in size to your paper and sports, plus i have a once-a-week sports column and deal with similar things that you do.
    and like you, i am perceived as strictly a "sports" guy and--again, like you--considered by the newsroom as probably the "toys and games" department of the paper. but they want suggestions next week for some different things to be done, for all of us to chip in and do something outside of our normal area and i am thinking about doing something similiar to what you mentioned.
    i know i've got some ideas, but can i sustain something like that "feature/city beat" type of thing over the long haul? i am wondering about that.
    i figure if any of us out there can tell good sports stories and write good sports features, we oughta be able to handle this type of column. it's all about crafting a story that readers are going to enjoy or want to check out.
  6. pallister

    pallister Guest

    The elements of a good story are universal. The venue (i.e. sports, news, features) matters little. If you can write a great "sports" story, you can write a great "news" story.
  7. WriteThinking

    WriteThinking Well-Known Member

    As far as what the readers will think, and if you'll have credibility with them, it'll be a different audience, so it won't matter. You will, essentially, be starting over.

    As far as what others in the newsroom think, that won't matter that much, either.

    As long as your boss thinks and says you can do it, that's the important thing, and any respect/credibility gained from others can be had by taking the new task seriously and doing the same level of work in that that you've always applied to sports.
  8. micke77

    micke77 Member

    again, and i don't know about Huntsie, but i am concerned about the "long haul" of producing enough column ideas of non-sports nature. maybe i am not believing in myself enough, but have always been able to generate plenty of sports story ideas, so guess i will just need to revamp my thinking to the news side.
    yea, and i am not worried about news side.
    have you ever noticed that many of the newsroom folks believe there's nothing to writing about sports? they see it as oh-so-easy. the "play" department, if you will. but put them in the same situation and they'd wilt. more times than not, sportswriters can handle news stuff better than vice-versa.
  9. huntsie

    huntsie Active Member

    Personally, I'm not worried about subject matter. It's always been my contention that everybody has a story to tell. We just have to have the skill to get them to tell it.
    Who was it -- one of the talk show hosts I believe -- who had a guest who used to open the phone book at random, pick out a name and talk to whoever it was. And found fascinating stuff. Some time, in this new venture, I'm going to do that.

    I guess my chief concern here is what do you have to give up to do it? They're not talking about moving me out of sports entirely -- just balancing this new column against other things. And the family column has built a good following. So if I stop that in favour of this new one, what do I do when people say "He should have stuck to..."
  10. WFL nerd

    WFL nerd Guest

    Do it, dude.
    At my first shop back in the day I was sports editor but also wrote a Saturday humor column. The humor column got so popular the bosses asked me to do a Sunday humor column as well.
    There were people who didn't even know I wrote sports who became fans of the funny stuff, which to this day is still gratifying.
    You want to do it, you know you can do it so don't let anything hold you back.
    I'll guarantee you'll be glad you did.
    Good luck to you.
  11. Pete Incaviglia

    Pete Incaviglia Active Member

    Exactly. I'm nominated for an award for a non-sports piece I wrote. It's the only non-sports piece I've written in two years. If your given the time, have done the research, have the insight, have the passion, etc. you can credibly and enjoyably write anything.
  12. micke77

    micke77 Member

    thanks to all of y'all giving suggestions on this, because--again, like Huntsie--i've got concerns but really would like to try it. the niche is "sports" for me and that's the way readers see us, but i believe i could contribute as a non-sports column writer, too. to Huntsie, anyway, I say you need to definitely try it.
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