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How would you operate?

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by hackcrack, Jan 7, 2007.

  1. hackcrack

    hackcrack Member

    Trying to come up with a fresh grind since what we do seems to grind people into burnout, and I know all of us, with cut budgets, are doing the same.

    You have:
    Three staffers, including yourself.
    One reasonably good part-time writer/paginator.
    Two less-than-stellar stringers you'd rather not use.
    Two desk clerks for high school nights,taking linescores.

    You cover:
    Three area colleges, 22 high schools. Two are your main schools, but your company has just dumped two news people from a weekly rag onto your staff along with the responsiblity for coverage. They are the No. 3 high school in your area.

    Football, volleyball in the fall
    Basketball, wrestling in the winter
    A shitload of spring sports in the summer.

    General attitude:
    Tired of trying to be everything to everybody. Tired of sacrificing quality people for content, then having payroll cut and thus with it, the content (but not the demand), and not getting awards these people deserve.

    Other factors:
    Your immediate bosses outside the department basically let you steer the ship without micromanagement.

    So knowing you paginate your own four-page section each night, what would your strategy be?

    Thanks ahead of time.
  2. hackcrack

    hackcrack Member

    Moddy, could you move this to the general "journalism topics only" thread and not writer's workshop? Thanks.
  3. DyePack

    DyePack New Member

    I'd start trying to find better stringers to replace the ones you don't want to use.

    You have three area colleges and 22 high schools. There have to be at least a couple of people who would be worth trying out. You can still keep the losers around in case of emergency and then drop them when you don't need them.

    Sometimes -- and I'm not just talking about your situation -- I'm amazed at how hard this industry clings to people who can't, won't, don't do the job.
  4. hackcrack

    hackcrack Member

    Dye, we've got two that retired that were good. You'd be amazed at what I've come up with from area colleges. One froze the first day on stats, went out on break, and never came back. Another was totally undependable on game coverage and wouldn't call to say he couldn't make it. About 75 percent of the would-be's in the so-called college journalism departments at two of these write worse than the average 12-year-old. I had another guy who was one of the all-knowing people in the community on sports and "always thought of being a writer." Sent him out to a 49-42 overtime game where he a) missed ID's on four touchdowns in regulation and b) got the winning play and name wrong.

    So when you get a mediocre one, you sometimes have to hold on for fear of what's out there. The closest major metro area where a load of correspondents exist is 70 miles away.
  5. DyePack

    DyePack New Member

    Sometimes -- and I'm not just talking about your situation -- I'm amazed at how hard this industry clings to people who can't, won't, don't do the job.

    The return of the cut-and paste; it should get heavy use in 2007.
  6. Angola!

    Angola! Guest

    hack - I'd keep looking at the colleges. Just because you got some shitty ones doesn't mean everyone at the schools are shitty. Also, don't hold yourself to getting journalism students. Sometimes the English majors are better writers if you can convince them to like writing caveman style. Also, we had some history and business majors string for us and they did a very good job.
    I'd just continue to try and find better stringers.
  7. DyePack

    DyePack New Member

    But, Angola, he said he tried to find better stringers, and it didn't work. So there's no sense in trying again. Better to just keep the mediocre people and go on.
  8. Angola!

    Angola! Guest

    As far as the high school sports are concerned, I would assign 2 people to it for fall season, 1.5 for winter and 1 for spring.
    During football season you should always cover whichever city school is at home and then have the other person cover the best area game of the other 20 high schools.
    Cover home volleyball matches involving the two city schools and none of the area schools. You can do a feature or something on the area schools, but I wouldn't worry about covering them until the playoffs roll around.

    In winter, I would try and cover home basketball games for the two city schools. Like volleyball I would ignore game coverage for the area schools until the playoffs. For wrestling I would only worry about covering tournaments, though I would cover the duals between the two city schools.

    In spring, fuck pretty much everything. There is so much going on and no one attends most of the sports anyway. I would concentrate on trying to do a lot of features and doing occasional game coverage for the city schools, but trying to cover every baseball, softball, track, tennis and golf matches is impossible and pointless.

    This should free up your staff to do better coverage on the colleges and time to work on features and special projects better.

    The thing I like about my present shop is actually establishing beats at the high school level. At my old shop I'd cover a basketball game one night and then go to volleyball and then wrestling and there was no continuity and I had no idea what was going on in each sport.
    Here the beats are actually divided up. I cover boys basketball and one of the colleges. I know your staff isn't big enough, but you could at least divide it up by sport so your writers actually feel like they have some background knowledge on what is going on.

    Enough. Off my soapbox.
  9. Angola!

    Angola! Guest

    You are right, I figured if enough people tried to cajole him to keep trying he might put out another ad.
  10. hackcrack

    hackcrack Member

    If not for social security restraints, the writer problem wouldn't be there. Ads get the goofball like I had on the overtime game. And we pay pretty decent. Footnote: the journalism "schools" if you want to call it that are all extremely poor. Basically, it produces a college paper and not a degree, except at one.

    Angola: Thanks for your response. What I'd throw in is that in basketball, what do you do when both the city schools traditionally reek but surrounding (within 10 miles of core readership) schools produce FIVE ranked teams, including a three-time defending state champion?
  11. Angola!

    Angola! Guest

    I guess it depends on how much readership your city schools generate. No matter what we cover every city schools home games just because we sell the majority of our papers in town, but then again people here don't traditionally care about basketball as much because it is a huge football area.
    I guess you could do basketball like you do football and only have one person cover the city schools and that "third" school that was added and then have another person do random coverage on the area schools.
  12. GB-Hack

    GB-Hack Active Member

    I would ask what level the colleges are at. Are they all at an equal level of competition, or is there a disparity in the Division they play in?
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