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Finding reasons not to do a story

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Smallpotatoes, Aug 27, 2015.

  1. Smallpotatoes

    Smallpotatoes Well-Known Member

    Had a conversation with our photo editor today. He's a stickler for competence, which I guess is a good thing. We were talking about a story I was doing on a former local high school athlete who now plays at a Division II college after spending a year at a FBS program. I thought it might be worth doing a piece where I caught up with him and let the readers know how he was doing. He was one of the better players to go through the high school program in the last few decades. He didn't live in the town, but he went to high school there.
    The photo editor thought it was a bad idea because he's not local. To me, he is. He went to the local high school and I'm sure the readers would be interested.
    We've had this conversation before and he's of the opinion that if a kid goes someplace to play in college, they're no longer local because they do not live in the town anymore.
    Also, I told him that I prefer to look for reasons to do stories. I don't look for reasons not to do them. If I did that, I'd never do anything.
    Then I thought about it and realized why he thinks this way. With college stories, especially if the college is far away, I use photos that the SID sends me. I think his concern is that if management sees an abundance of courtesy photos, it will want to cut staff.
    I don't know if management really does think that way or not. If it's happened where you work, please let me know. Is it something I should keep in mind?
  2. stix

    stix Active Member

    For one, he's the photo editor. Tell him you don't give a shit what he thinks you should write about. Why would you listen to him?

    Secondly, I've come to find that these "catching up with stories" are well-received. If he played at a local school and was a standout, I'm sure people will want to read about what he's doing now. I've written tons of these stories, and I'm a huge champion of them. I think it's strange when you cover a kid like crazy in high school, then he/she goes off to college to play, and you never hear about him/her again. I've always felt like it's a disservice to the readers.

    You don't need to write about every game, but local "catching up with" features are great. Especially ones where a kid transfers schools or something like that. If he's worried about submitted photos, so be it. You can always find staff photos from the archives to go with the story alongside current ones if you want, but his worrying about using submitted photos shouldn't dictate your content.

    We've had local kids play professionally (several prominent ones). Pretty sure the readers are still very interested in what they do and don't consider them "non-local."
  3. Batman

    Batman Well-Known Member

    The photo editor is a dumbass.
    If a kid went to high school in your town, he's ALWAYS local. Even if he was born there and moved away he's ALWAYS local because he probably still has family and friends there. If the kid goes on to star in the NFL, by the photo editor's logic you should never acknowledge it. By extension, should you never run a story on the local/regional NFL team or State U. because it's "not local"?
    People love the "local kid done good" stories. One of our former high school stars went to college out of state and played a prominent role in this past NFL season. It might be the biggest sports story we've ever had here. Anything we post online about this guy gets page clicks out the ass. Your photo editor would probably ignore it because he's "not local."

    I understand the logic behind emphasizing local content. It's what good papers should do. But I hate when people try to pretend the world stops at the edge of your circulation area.
    I had a potentially great story lined up this year that got spiked by management for that very reason. Former All-Conference basketball player at State U. who got kicked out of school after being arrested for drug possession. He was trying to resurrect his career with a local/regional semi-pro team that does some summer workouts here and has a couple of local players, but is based out of a bigger city nearby. The player was also from the bigger city. Got the GM of the team to set it up, the guy was supposedly willing to talk about anything ... it could've been a great story. The kind where you spend an hour with the guy and fill up a notebook. At the very least it would've filled a Sunday section and had a tie-in to the summer workouts.
    And it got spiked because the guy "wasn't local."
    Because he was from 50 miles away.

    Sorry for the rant, but this is a huge pet peeve of mine. We do 365 of these damn things a year. There's nothing wrong with throwing the readers a good curveball now and again.
  4. Smallpotatoes

    Smallpotatoes Well-Known Member

    I think his main concern is that if management sees an abundance of courtesy photos as opposed to staff photos there may be layoffs.
    He's never said it in so many words but if I had to guess, that's what he's thinking here.
    Am I naive to think management wouldn't think that way?
  5. Padre

    Padre Member

    They might (probably not unless it happened all the time), but that's not your concern. I'm all for cooperation between departments, as well as good constructive criticism, but it's not really his place ... unless he's ok with you advising him about photography.
    sgreenwell likes this.
  6. TheSportsPredictor

    TheSportsPredictor Well-Known Member

    Stickler for competence, the new motto for SJ.com.
  7. TyWebb

    TyWebb Well-Known Member

    Photo editor definitely doesn't know what he is talking about. I think you are right in assuming it is a territorial thing. Readers do like the kinds of stories you are talking about. At my last shop, I did a weekly roundup of how football players from local high schools did in college games. I think I called it "The Next Level" or something cheesy like that. After doing it a couple of weeks, I received tons of emails from readers asking about other players and wanting the same kind of thing for other sports. Unfortunately, it is harder to get stats for a Div. III softball team or a community college volleyball team.
  8. TheSportsPredictor

    TheSportsPredictor Well-Known Member

    I believe this stickler for competence believes he knows what he is talking about.
  9. BurnsWhenIPee

    BurnsWhenIPee Well-Known Member

    How far away is this D-II school?

    If it's inconvenient to get to but not across the country, you could tell the photo editor, "I'm doing the story. If you don't want me to use SID photos because it makes you look bad, I'll put in a photo assignment and you can hop in the car and go shoot art for it."
  10. I Should Coco

    I Should Coco Well-Known Member

    Every photographer I know who works at a newspaper worries about this, and they should. As the quantity of photos taken goes through the roof thanks to smart phones, the QUALITY of photos — and deciding what photos to use based on quality — has plummeted.

    Case in point from our shop: The regional fair/rodeo is going on this week, and our shooters decided to go at twilight to get different-looking shots with dramatic lighting. They came out great. But of course, these photos weren't available for the afternoon news budget meeting, so a lame reader-submitted photo ran as an A1 standalone instead. (Front-page photos that actually GO WITH STORIES? Almost never — because it requires coordination and planning. But that's another topic).

    Reader-submitted photos are plentiful, they're easy to get, require zero staffing and planning, and most importantly, they're FREE. Pretty soon they will be all you see in weekly and smaller daily papers.

    The number of great newspaper photogs who have left the business in the past 5-10 years is off the charts. Your photo editor is right to be worried.

    (however, I also agree ... he's wrong about the story idea. By all means, do the feature story on the former high school athlete; he's a "local" in my book!)
  11. DeskMonkey1

    DeskMonkey1 Active Member

    It's college, not professional, but I remember at my college paper when the photo editor called me at home (well, dorm) after I put my page to bed ( except for a photo he was taking that day that the managing editor would drop in for me) and tells me why I should redo the entire thing. I don't remember what he said because I was fuming and went into a long rant - one he didn't hear because the managing editor pulled the phone line and fired him on the spot. (it was'nt the first incident)

    EDIT: Originally said "local" instead of "professional" because I'm an idiot
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2015
  12. sgreenwell

    sgreenwell Well-Known Member

    I'm positive that management thinks that way, but as others have pointed out, it's also probably not your job to worry about his job security - I'm positive you probably have enough on your own plate in that regard, given the way this industry is.

    Maybe an attempt to compromise here - Does this guy ever come back to the area? I'm in Rhode Island, so I realize that my perspective might be a bit skewed, but I'm usually back in my hometown every couple of weeks for one reason or another. Shit, it would be kind of weird if this guy wasn't at the yearly Thanksgiving football game. What about trying to time the story's release up with that, and having the precious photog do the shoot then?
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