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Going to smaller paper

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Lollygaggers, Sep 18, 2007.

  1. Lollygaggers

    Lollygaggers Member

    I was curious as to what you guys thought about taking a "step down" (going from a large metro paper to a somewhat smaller paper). If the smaller paper offered opportunities to maybe do more things and have more input (from either a writing or a desk perspective), would the move be worth it? How is a move that could be looked at as backward viewed when potential employers see it on a resume down the road?
  2. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    You gotta do what's best for you -- and "best" is defined differently for everybody.

    Circulation isn't the be-all, end-all. Neither is salary, for that matter. Everybody's situation is different.

    If a potential employer looks down on you for a "step down" in circ that is a step up in every other factor -- and that's all you have to say -- you don't want to work for them anyway.
  3. Dan Rydell

    Dan Rydell Guest

    Smaller papers are nicer places to work, from where I've been.

    Of course, maybe it's just where I've been, but the big places aren't the be-all/end-all, and the corporate atmosphere can be mind-numbing.

    Money ain't everything. Better to be happy.
  4. BB Bobcat

    BB Bobcat Active Member

    I went from covering preps and a small no-one-cares DI college at 300K circ paper (that was actually a suburban bureau of the 1.2M LA Times) to covering Major League Baseball for a 100K paper.

    While I do miss the fact that having LA Times by my name got a lot more of my calls returned, I'm much happier sitting in an MLB press box than sitting at a high school game, even though my stories on the high school game appeared in a lot more papers.

    Anyway, if you make the move because there is obviously more opportunity at the smaller paper, I don't think anyone would hold it against you. If you moved from a big paper to a small paper for a similar job, people might wonder.
  5. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Well-Known Member

    Why would they wonder, even then? There could be a dozen good reasons to switch jobs to a smaller place. A spouse's circumstances, a different lifestyle, more opportunity, no lousy commute, family in the new town, you name it. Bigger isn't always better, and if all our stuff is available on Web sites anyway, what difference does it make how many dead trees are used up?

    Find work you like, good people to do it around. Heck with circulation size. Bigger places often have bigger jerks, in my experiences.
  6. BB Bobcat

    BB Bobcat Active Member

    I didn't say there weren't good reasons. All I said was that people would wonder, and you might be asked to explain what those good reasons were. That's all.
  7. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Well-Known Member

    OK, I see your point. They wonder, we explain, they stop wondering. Works for me.
  8. accguy

    accguy Member

    I think if there's a legitimate reason (better beat, a job with more responsibility, more cash), then do it. But if it is simply an exit strategy to get out of your current situation and it's a lateral move, I would be careful.

    Moving to move is dangerous because the unknown could be as bad or worse than the known. Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for.
  9. silvercharm

    silvercharm Member

    If you can swing it financially, I highly recommend the move. Between the 5,000 editors wanting to "massage" your copy and the non-stop backstabbling, the extra bucks in the pay envelope each week wasn't worth it.
  10. accguy

    accguy Member

    I have the opposite attitude of silvercharm.

    I think the money has to be part of the equation. Because to the best that I can tell, there's bullshit at every job and you have to realize that going in. It might be a different kind of bullshit, but it's there.

    I would be furious with myself if I made a lateral move to a smaller paper, took a pay cut and then, three or four months later, didn't like it. You're going to have crazy bosses everywhere. You're going to have corporate nonsense almost everywhere. So you might as well get what you can get because nobody is going to look out for you.
  11. Jim_Carty

    Jim_Carty Member

    I left a gig that was mainly college sports, but also included everything from pro backups to preps at The Asbury Park Press (185,000 to 199,000 depending on who you believe) for a full-time column gig at The Ann Arbor News (50,000).

    At the time, the move was all about the column, but there have been so many other benefits.

    The News is privately held and has a huge commitment to sports (we often joke we'd stop covering city hall before Michigan), so we've been less impacted by the downturn in the business than many papers. The Press, meanwhile, has cut back to the point that it basically only covers high schools. There's a lot less bureaucracy. Have a vision for tomorrow's paper? Usually it's pretty easy to talk to the SE and/or our desk guys. Want to try something new? Again, usually pretty easy.

    The Jersey market was sliced and diced 18 different ways - the NY dailies, the Jersey papers, Philly in the South, etc. Here, my neighbors and the people I cover read my paper and offer tons of feedback, good and bad. It's not unusual for people to yell stuff at me from a car window downtown (and it's not even always bad stuff).

    Unlike Jersey, where everybody lived all over the place and, as a result, often did really know each other much, let alone socialize, I know the people at my paper and in my department very well. My best friends here are the guys I work with. I know their families and they know mine. We socialize together a lot. If my car is broken, our football writer swings by to pick me up for work, and I do the same for him.

    That's not to say it's Nirvana. There are times the Detroit papers can marshall more people or spend more money and you wish you had those resources. There are times we don't look as pretty as they do, again mostly because of resources and bodies. It's usually fairly impossible to sneak anything past your boss at a smaller paper. You might have to fiddle with your vacation dates because a smaller paper can't have all of its writers off at the same time. When there are cutbacks - we're currently letting one full-time writing position sit open and haven't filled our last 3 part-time spots that left - we feel them a lot more than you'd feel it at a bigger paper.

    In the end, the circ. size should only be a small part of why you do - or don't - make the move. You've gotta evaluate fit more than anything - are these people you want to work with? Is it a better job in terms of responsibilities? Does the paper have a commitment to sports? If you answer yes on all those questions, the circ probably shouldn't matter.

    Oh, and I did technically take a pay cut to come here. A small one. I came out ahead, though, because Newhouse offers free health benefits for the entire family. If I were still working for Gannett, I'd be paying $7,000 a year for the same coverage. Win.
  12. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    By more input, what do you mean?
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