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Gannett's newest "innovation"

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by murciélago, Jul 5, 2007.

  1. I work at a smaller Gannett property which has come up with an unusual way to ensure proper production from its writers. A policy went into effect in April that required all reporters to submit at least two bylines per day in addition to two internet-only items that may or may not include a byline. So that's four items per day.

    I didn't think much of it until recently, when word began to spread that management was unhappy with the relative lack of summer sports copy. It's been suggested to me, a college beat guy, that I start writing for the news side during the summer since there isn't enough sports stuff to cover. I really don't want to do that.

    So tell me this:

    a.) How crazy is this two-stories-per-day edict?
    b.) Does this sound like a terminal professional situation?

    Please keep the anti-Gannett rhetoric to a minumum. Yes, the company has problems. I work there; I know.

    EDIT: To clarify, I have been among the paper's top three in terms of byline count for a long while. I produce well in excess of 10 stories per week (the official requirement) for most of the year. June and July are the exceptions, as is the case with many of us.
  2. Breakyoself

    Breakyoself Member

    during the season, probably not too bad. during the summer, probably not too realistic.
  3. SoSueMe

    SoSueMe Active Member

    My experience (and it's going on nine years now) has been that sports works its ass off in the fall/winter (preps, college, pro, junior sports, etc.) and summer slows down.

    Everywhere I've been - all of them unionized - there's been a "gentlemen's agreement" between sports reporters and management that sports reporters will often work more than eight hours a day and 40 hours a week in the fall and winter and kind of make it up during the summer. I've never had to, but I did, keep track of all hours worked and it balances out. Example: Nothing going on Friday this week, I'll be lucky to work half a shift.

    So, long story short: Fuck that news side noise.

    As for four bylines (two and two), I can't see that being a problem at all during the fall/winter. Putting a quota on stories is stupid, but let's face it, sports is busy enough in the big seasons to do it. Just leave me alone in the summer and slow times.

    If they started asking me to do that, I'd be asking for my OT to be paid during the winter months.
  4. As far as winter OT, my paper's approach would be to cut game travel until OT no longer is an issue.

    We'd just miss games. I don't have a personal affection for the college I cover, but I care about being a comprehensive source of information for said college's fans. I can't stomach ending road travel altogether. That's not solving anything.
  5. SockPuppet

    SockPuppet Active Member

    Story counts, byline counts ... ain't got nothing to do with journalism.
    Fuck Gannett.
  6. dooley_womack1

    dooley_womack1 Well-Known Member

    Byline count is an awful thing. Someone having a one-byline week, that one byline being a big expose or great takeout, is likely contributing more in the big picture than someone who wrote 10 items of about 8-12 inches each. There can be no possible rational rationale to mandating a certain level of production that is so arbitrary and has nothing to do with quality.
  7. Riddick

    Riddick Active Member

    this idea sucks ass. But the sad thing is, considering how Gannett is laying people off, your best bet is to comply, or find a new job. Cause I'm sure they're would mind cutting back one more position.
  8. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    Some things aren't worthy of bylined stories, but if you've got a friggin' quota to meet, they'll become stories. And the internet items will become junk city.

    One of my first stops was a byline-counting joint, we didn't have quotas but there was a running scoreboard with us vs. the major metro. It was posted on the wall and updated daily by a newsroom assistant. And we always won, because they counted briefs, old lady golf roundups, our local weekly tennis columnist, etc. Stupid shit besides the legit bylines. Sometimes the major metro's local section had just one sports story, and it may have kicked our ass up and down, but the publisher would see 6-1 on the scoreboard and declare us winners for the day. I always felt like taking a shower.
  9. Diabeetus

    Diabeetus Active Member

    Just submit a 4" story or side note if they're going to be dicks. Then you can tell them you've fulfilled your requirement if they give you shit about something later. ;)
  10. Walter Burns

    Walter Burns Member

    Two stories a day doesn't sound that bad...but they emphasize quality over quantity. I work in a Gannett shop, and you'd be surprised at the shit I can get through (it feeds the beast and keeps people off my ass, but I've lost whatever self-respect I might have).
    Which brings me to your second point...terminal professional situation? Absolutely.
    And with the Local Information Center concept, they'll probably start sending you out in the summer to cover tee-ball.
  11. slappy4428

    slappy4428 Active Member

    Byline count sucks. At the last union shop I was at, it was suggest we byline everything -- phoner or not.
    Then, when negotiations slowed down, we had a byline strike. Didnt win a state column award because "the lack of byline was confusing"
    I feel sorry for you, Murcie. And as much as I'd like to blame it onyour baseball writer, you're fucked.
    Remind your EE (HAH!) that when you might put in two this week, three months from now, you'll have 40 stories to fit the bill during football season.
    If the EE and Publisher (ok, the EE) doesnt understand that, give them EXACTLY what they want. To the Letter
  12. jfs1000

    jfs1000 Member

    By line counts lead to bad editorial decisions. What ends up happening is you forsake some good feature story and/or enterprise piece and go cover a mindless summer game. This happened to me at one of the 2 a day byline places.

    Sports editor, we were all young, told me to forget the feature story and go cover a rec volleyball match. That's what was getting in. Oh, and the publisher wanted us to bank sports stories on our days off. That didn't happen. How do you bank a live gamer. It was like we were creating news.

    At my shop, summer is cake. It is like club med and we just kind of hang out and try and figure things out. But, come the season the boss doesn't want to hear a peep about working long hours or 13 of 15 days on.

    I think sports staffs should be treated a little differently than news. In news, there should be a byline requirement for town reporters. But in sports, when there is no news, there is no news. You can't run features every day. Just not possible. Quality suffers.
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