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Frank discussion about APSE

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by doggieseatdoggies, May 6, 2009.

  1. doggieseatdoggies

    doggieseatdoggies New Member

    Good, bad and otherwise, and I'll listen to what's out there before injecting my own thoughts.

    With major cuts everywhere, do you (especially at the small papers) continue to pay membership dues? I know some steps were taken to make the annual contest a little more competitive-friendly for small papers, but is it enough? Does it matter? Are the annual conventions a get-together for an old network or a genuine chance to network, or with so few job opportunities out there to network for and with furloughs and limited vacations, and everyone's own personal lives connected to vacation time issues (what the spouse wants vs. what you might prefer for social or professional benefit), is that even a relevant benefit?

    Vent, compliment, offer constructive criticism....Hopefully this can be constructive and perhaps even helpful for the new officers.

    I just had this on my chest and felt led to throw it out. If it flies, great.
  2. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    Since you're relatively new, doggie, do a search of APSE and you'll find lots of opinions already aired. Even the awards threads usually turn into a discussion on APSE's viability.

    You have a valid point about networking; doing it within these shrinking walls doesn't make a ton of sense, especially the kind of networking that costs money and time, like a convention.
  3. doggieseatdoggies

    doggieseatdoggies New Member

    Well, this sank like a balloon, and that APSE Great Plains thread I found in research didn't say much either.

    But I'll chime with my input in now that it's been a week-plus....and I'm dead tired with furloughs to cover and all that shit. And I'll probably get ripped for doing it, but here goes.

    I cannot see how such an organization can exist as a "connection" point for any paper below 40,000 unless the sports editor is more or less still an executive who hasn't been pushed into the slot due to decreased resources. We have decided we won't be in APSE anymore. The conventions are unreachable and impractical for us. It's easy to assume (and again there's not enough posts to say either way) that those who make the trip to judge contests are a dwindling group who know each other and are in a rare career position that allows them the time off to go do it. If that assumption is on target then I can see why some I've talked to say it's basically a bar-gang good ol' boy network....again, it's an assumption. But I couldn't argue with the movement within the room to say "let's stay with it." It just wasn't there. We know with the shape we're in now that to simply focus on a masterpiece worth the approval of the APSE gods that it would require us to dump coverage priorities that at some point in the past two weeks had us pumping out four and five feature-type stories a day. That's right. I said a day. And when you do that much, it can't be contest material. You can't fly through a story. Like a good BBQ, it must be seasoned, messaged....and cooked to perfection.

    I get more out of this board than I have APSE in 10 years.
  4. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    Oddly, I just posted something about this on the thread about Indiana and the new APSE headquarters, so I'll keep this brief.

    Many or even most of the people who say there's nothing more to APSE than the bar-gang good ole boy network -- and I'm certainly not picking on you, DED, it's a standard theme around here -- likely have never been to an APSE function of any kind.

    Do sports editors at the conventions or judging or regional meetings go to bars or hospitality rooms and stay up late drinking? Yes, many do (surprisingly, perhaps, some of the newer guys [based on my extremely limited experience lately] seem to do less of this). Are there good ole boy alliances? Yes.

    Are there a lot of sessions at national conventions and regional meetings and one-day drive-ins that have done a great deal to enhance the abilities of sports editors across the country for more than 25 years, and by extension improved sports sections and the opportunities for 1,000s of sports staff members?

    Without any doubt whatsoever. And nobody will ever convince me otherwise.

    Having said that, DED, based on your resources and what has to be done and what you can't -- or don't want to -- give up to participate in APSE, only you can say. If your circumstances mean that you can't get out of it what it costs to be in, then you have to make that decision. And nobody is in a position to disagree with you.

    But APSE has helped me personally at every step of my career, and that's from the 18,000 circulation paper I started at through one that was once pulling in more than a million readers a day. And when I ran a department, it helped my section and my staff, too.

    I guess I didn't really keep it brief.
  5. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    This isn't entirely the fault of APSE (SND and the like deserve blame, too), and I don't doubt the motives were and are good in those improvement sessions. But I think newspapers -- and sports sections specifically -- were more interesting when they weren't so similar structurally and philosophically. Sometime in the '80s, having a Page 2 became like wearing the "right" brand of jeans. Sometime in the '90s, it became Centerpiece Usually Not About The Game With Faux Tabloid Cryptic Pun Hed In Sans Serif. In this decade: Roundups Suck! Et cetera. Were we actually learning from each other or conforming to a template in quest of a Top 20 award? On Tuesdays in the 1980s I used to venture to the newsstand and get that Sunday's papers that had just arrived from all over the country. Some were not very good -- well, less professional in appearance and tone than their more modern contemporaries. But at least most of them had their own personalities, derived organically from the city of origin rather than from what kind of newspapering was high style at the time. (And I realize that the cities themselves have become more generic as the population has become more mobile and less rooted in regional traditions.) I don't mean everyone's in lockstep all the time. But there's too much of it and it's made newspapers too homogenous. I think back to the late 1970s when I worked on papers that, for the most part, operated blissfully unaware of what a paper 1,000 miles away was doing. And that wasn't entirely a bad thing.
  6. FreddiePatek

    FreddiePatek Active Member

    I owe several good turns in my career to APSE. As a SE at a 40K-under, I can relate to your woes, DED. I write, edit and paginate here. That said, I'm going to Pittsburgh in June. As for the judging, I've gone the past two years and the ideas I've come away with frankly have made it more valuable to me than anything I get at the summer convention. I strongly advocate as many folks as possible taking part in judging. It's a lot of hard work, but it's worth it.
  7. fishwrapper

    fishwrapper Active Member

    Good Lord. Hyperbole wrapped in a mistaken conclusion.
    If you think -- any of you -- that the fall of newspapers is linked to APME, APSE, SND, or Pulitzer are blaming the teeth and not the dog.

    If you want to discuss the relevancy of any of those institutions, I'm willing to listen.
    SF Express and I get pounded when we defend some aspects of APSE. The cliche usually begins and ends with a bar and waistline reference.
    But, I'm guessing none of you have been in a hotel room for 10 hours reading and critiquing 114-state-championship-game stories from the under-40k division. I need a drink just thinking about it ;)
  8. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    No one's saying a formulaic approach in order to do well in contests is the sole reason for newspapers boring the crap out of people. But it doesn't help.

    Currently on the APSE home page, there's a column about the "winning contest formula." The guy who wrote it seems like a good SE and a good guy, but the mere existence of such a story does give the impression that the contest and "fitting in" with the other winners is a bit overemphasized. And that attitude wasn't invented this month. I recall there being a session in the late 1980s or early 1990s about how to do well in the contest. That, admittedly, is far worse than the post this month.

    I do think the homogenization of newspapers is a problem -- I certainly do not approach an out-of-town newsstand with the same zeal I once did. It adds to the perception that the product contains information "that we can get anywhere" when we look similar, emphasize similar stories, etc.
  9. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    I have to admit, these are very good points, Frank.

    I guess it would have been optimal if sections could have improved and NOT all been doing some of the same things. I certainly did a lot of copycat work on the sections I was involved with.

    But I think sections DID improve, and the readers of those sections were also blissfully unaware of the fact that those improvements might have originated at a paper 1,000 miles away. So while it wasn't as much fun for those of us in the business, at least the readers were being served better, for the most part.
  10. Toby Carrig

    Toby Carrig Member

    Three things, if I may.
    1, The article on the APSE Web site came together as I was sorting through my judging notes as part of 60-something critiques which are being sent around to small newspapers around the country that participated in the contest. That feedback is intended to be more specific to each newspaper. Many sports editors probably wonder how came they didn't place in the top 20, and I was trying to give a little insight. There is not a template because the papers that were on the list had a variety of strengths and appealed to different editors/judges in different ways. But some of the work we saw is worth mentioning. When small papers are able to cover events or produce enterprise beyond expectations, I think it's worth noting and potentially something that can inspire other papers.
    (And I don't think photographers get enough credit.)
    2, I understand the frustrations, particularly when traveling to national or regional APSE events is so difficult, due to the expense or just getting time away from the office. If a sports editor has those concerns and wants to drop me an e-mail with any service APSE can provide that might help, let me know. (tcarrig@avpress.com). I have in the past made audio CDs available from APSE seminars, and I usually have some Best Ideas CDs floating around that I can pass along if you don't have that information already.
    One of the best programs APSE offers papers under-40,000 is the opportunity for about a dozen sports editors to judge other newspapers and see what ideas out there in terms of stories and presentation. If you can get that block of days off (in 2010, it's March 6-10), contact your region chair or me to let us know you're interested in that program.
    3, I expected to see some discussion of a question that has been hinted at before but I don't know that it's been answered: What can APSE do to be relevant to sports journalists today? And specifically, what should the organization being doing in the form of assistance and support as sports editors try to do their jobs in the current environment?
    I've wondered if we should draft correspondence to protest cuts in staffing, travel and other areas that affect coverage just as we protest a professional league infringing on our ability to gather information.
    But, are there areas where APSE can be more effective?
  11. Inky_Wretch

    Inky_Wretch Well-Known Member

    As I've said before, the APSE conventions have helped me quite a bit over the years. They've been worth every penny.

    That said, the paper isn't picking up the tab for this year. And I'm not going into my own pocket (again) to pay for a trip to the national.
  12. doggieseatdoggies

    doggieseatdoggies New Member

    For a while, we had an annual state meeting which was attended by maybe 8-10 newspaper department heads and we'd talk about mutual issues, perhaps some of those applying to cooperative relationships with the state's governing body for high school sports; how to collect state football scores on Friday, and such. It was helpful and it was a half-day get-together. Even the regional conventions offered are at least an overnight drive for us. So when asking what APSE could do for members, the closer venue could offer more, I'd suppose.

    I don't doubt the seminars at the national conventions are good and the value of networking can't be stated enough. The logistics of pulling it off are simply more difficult. Would I like to have that advantage? Absolutely, but not at the expense of family which looks at summertime as the opportunity to reconnect with dad and be a family again. Do I regret making that sacrifice, knowing what it could do for my career? Sure. And I realize not everyone has that pressure or choice. I also realize that some have been through that pressure and found they regretfully sacrificed something in the process. It's a tough call, meeting family needs now or bettering myself professionally to help them later. With the shape of newspapers and upward professional these days, I don't see the latter being very realistic, not like it might have been 10, 15 years ago.

    When I said I get more from this site than I do APSE, I spoke in practical terms. Just a few weeks ago, a member here did some section/edition critique work for me and that was a huge enlightenment. Without that I doubt I was going to submit anything next year. With cutbacks, furloughs, potential furloughs and such it's tough to maintain a coverage level and the emphasis here has always been on production and meeting reader demands...when we do that these days, quality suffers. Just this week I was so far down in resources I did four,- yes, four stories from the desk, two features, a multifaceted call-in coverage report and a column for one section in one day while also paginating. I was so brain dead at night's end that the proofs just blew by me. The next morning, I was frustrated with the "minor" problems in some otherwise pretty good writing. But "minor" problems are costly in contests, yet when you know you worked your ass off just to get that out to the reader, you realize in those situations it's just not going to get much better. I see that and my staff sees that. "Ice Cream Days" motivates just so much.

    I wish there was a way to gage resources when judging work. But there's not.
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