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Input/advice sought re: a life-changing decision

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Dr. Ted Nelson, Jun 28, 2011.

  1. Dr. Ted Nelson

    Dr. Ted Nelson New Member

    I've been a sports writer for 13 years, the last nine at my current shop, a 30K, 7-day a.m. We're a small staff, so we're reporters and designers, thus 99 percent of my shifts are 4 p.m.-1 a.m.
    When I started this particular job, I was fine with that shift because I was young and sans offspring. I thought it was a five-year stop at the most, that I would eventually move on to a beat job.
    Instead, the crash of the business combined with, if I had to be brutally honest with myself, my probably-no-better-than-slightly-above-average writing skills have kept me at the same shop and that same shift. In the meantime, Mrs. Dr. Ted Nelson and I were blessed to be joined by a daughter, who is now 5 years old and this fall will attend kindergarten all day (9-2). So if I remain in my current position, other than a stray hour or so before and after school, I will see my daughter, the crowning jewel in my life, 1.5 days per week: Sunday and half of my other day off, which is never Saturday.
    That realization set some drastic planning in motion. I've been applying for jobs outside the biz - p.r./marketing types mostly - to no avail. Then it occurred to me there is an opening at our shop for a news reporter. I realize the hours would still not be perfect - there would still be night and occasional weekend shifts. But it would be way more 9-5ish than my current 4-1 every single day. I talked to our ME about it, expressed my interest, and he said the interest is mutual. They are keeping the position dark for the summer while we milk our annual interns, and the ME said we would revisit things this fall when/if he gets clearance to fill the position.
    At first I was actually pretty excited about the prospective move. Yeah, there are things I would miss about covering sports. But I got lucky: I got into this business for the wrong reason, which is to say I love sports and wanted to do something in sports. But I lucked out, and I love the job. I love the writing. I love the reporting. So from that standpoint, switching does not concern me. And the open news beat is cops and politics (insert joke here about relationship of said beats), so I'd be covering the important, 1A-type stuff. I liked that, and I liked the challenge of making such a drastic career change.
    But as time has wore on, doubt has begun to creep in. There's a lot of heavy crap that comes with covering that important stuff as well, and I know that. Do I really want to deal with that every day? Am I prepared to trade in whiny HS parents for politically-driven a-holes and pissed off felons? (I'm sorry, I mean alleged felons.) And maybe I'll miss covering sports more than I realize. I struggle on those days that something on one of my sports beats happens and I think, boy that will be fun to cover this fall.

    So I come to the good folks of SportsJournalists.com for any input and/or advice. I've been on this board long enough to know there are so many people here with so many work and life experiences, that I had to come here and get their thoughts.
    I thank you in advance.
  2. murphyc

    murphyc Well-Known Member

    Go for the cops/politics opening. Yes, you'll miss the sports. I did when I gave it up to focus on news. But IMO the upsides of the better hours (esp. the family time) will outweigh the downsides of giving up sports.
    Also consider: if you end up not liking the news side, just having that experience will make you more employable in an outside biz.
  3. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Switch to news reporting. The hours will be better and you can see your daughter. As a bonus, that experience will expand your resume and allow you to meet more folks for networking purposes if you don't love it.

    Seems to me that lots more news reporters are able to make the jump to PR and communications type jobs (probably because they interact with those folks).

    Sports writers tend to leave paper to write sports for the web.

    Working your hours is fine with you don't have kids or the kids aren't old enough for school and you can split child-watching duties.

    But once they get to school the hours will suck.
  4. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    Alledged felons are easier to deal with than swim parents.
  5. SportsGuyBCK

    SportsGuyBCK Active Member

    And they won't complain about you costing them scholarships ... :)
  6. bigblueman

    bigblueman Member

    I've made the jump from sports to news and news to sports, and now I am back in news again. I found my writing became better each time I switched departments because I was forced to think about it again. In this business, if you have worked sports at any point in your career, you will have an opportunity to get back into it. I think management assumes because you worked lousy hours once, you'll be more inclined to embrace such a move again. Also, because I spent time in sports and news, when I applied to law school, admissions looked at my abilities as more well rounded because I had a lot of experience, and the people I met working in news (and sports, too) have proven to be helpful to me as I get closer to becoming a lawyer.

    And one other thing we never talk about. You will be considered a God in the news department because of the ability to work under the tight deadline pressure you've been under in sports. News writers see that kind of deadline pressure during an election, maybe.
  7. UNCGrad

    UNCGrad Well-Known Member

    This is so true. I only made the jump to the SID world (working from home half the week in May and June makes up for some tough weeks in-season), but I can get so much more writing done in a much shorter time period than so many in this business. And I can file my story for media and our website AND make sure our postgame video piece is added to the post within the hour of our game's conclusion. We're a machine here in season, and being able to do do the "required" work so quickly allows the time to enhance the product.

    It's been a year, and not once have I had to field a phone call or read an e-mail bitching about my writing. I love that.
  8. WriteThinking

    WriteThinking Well-Known Member

    Methinks that with those news beats, you will be occupied enough, and that you will probably not even be thinking of sports, or missing them, once you're in the new job.

    You won't be able to, except for maybe, sometimes, during off-work hours.
  9. shockey

    shockey Active Member

    if 'writing/reporting news side' is outside of, say, a political beat, it's a piece of cake for anyone used to a sports gig. and the hours rock. and you NEVER bring the job home with you; for the most part, your stories are one and done. you'll no longer be all-encompassed by a gig that fills your head 24/7.

    the downside is also that you'll have a gig that doesn't preoccupy you 24/7. you're unlikely to find the job to be a paid pleasure; but it your job fulfillment runs a far distant second to your home-life/parental fulfillment, it's a no-brainer.

    it's rare to have the best of both worlds in this biz. you'll still enjoy your work better than most folks do and still have all the joy/magical moments only child-rearing can provide.

    good for you that the paper has presented you with this opportunity for a compromise. sure, ideally it would be a sports gig but this sure ain't bad...
  10. westcoastvol

    westcoastvol Active Member

    I'm not a parent or a journalist, but writing gamers against a late Saturday night deadline, covering a shitty little league game and having to write a gamer that fills an inordinate amount of columnar inches or taking calls from bitchy parents doesn't seem to hold a candle to spending time with your daughter.
  11. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    What shockey said. My daughter's going into first grade and I feel like she'll be in 12th grade next week. Cherish every moment, man.

    I doubt you'll miss sports *that* much. If you really need a fix, I'm sure they'd let you cover the occasional Friday night game.
  12. shockey

    shockey Active Member

    of course, this is all based upon the premise that the job you'll be going to doesn't suck balls. 'cause if you're stuck in a job you hate you'll be hard-pressed to give your precious daughter the kind of happy daddy who can be at his best.
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