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Is there a point in complaining?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by copperpot, Feb 6, 2008.

  1. copperpot

    copperpot Well-Known Member

    Looking for some thoughts here ... I'm a desker in a small shop. My background includes writing, editing and designing. Because of family issues, I'm working only part time right now, chiefly as a designer.

    A reporter was recently promoted to desk editor, technically making him my boss. I had no idea about his design or editing skills (seemed like an OK, if long-winded, writer). Well, on his first day in his new role, he tackled an inside cover and gave it to me to look at. I'm not joking, I could have designed it better when I was still in college. Any style rule that he could break, he did. We're talking uneven columns, bumping heads, doglegs.

    A couple of days ago, he "edited" a story for me. Ages were left spelled out. The number 20 was left spelled out. There were several other small things along those same lines.

    I'm pretty much beside myself. My chief complaint is that having him in a position of power seems destined to spell disaster for the paper. If he's designing pages that look like crap and signing off on stories with glaring style mistakes, it seems inevitable that at least some of that will make its way on to the press.

    I really, truly don't understand the reasoning behind the promotion. His job is one that's heavy in layout, yet he designs like a total amateur. So, what do I do? Do I go to the higher-ups, who just hired this guy, and tell them they made a mistake? Do I just suck it up? Do I confront the guy myself with every mistake I find?

    I appreciate any feedback.
  2. Gold

    Gold Active Member

    What happened to you is what can happen when you decline to seek a promotion, even if it is for good reasons.

    Maybe the reason the supervisors promoted this guy is because they are dummies. You have to consider this if you are going to complain, because you will be questioning their judgment. There's an old saying, "He couldn't write, so they made him an editor"

    Maybe the promoted guy isn't all that happy about having to do this new job. He probably has no background in layout. I have been a writer for 30 years, mostly part-time, and I think I am pretty good. I have no clue about layout.

    Why does the guy spell out "20"? Maybe he doesn't want to change somebody's writing - he may be timid about that. Maybe he doesn't know - he should know but if nobody ever told him.

    If this guy isn't going to hurt you and isn't a bad guy, why not try to help him out? I wouldn't do it all at once - I would take one thing a week. The editing first, then one style rule, then another. I'd try to let the higher ups and people in the newsroom know you are helping the fellow, but do this in a subtle way. That would seem a lot more productive than raising a big fuss and getting everybody, especially yourself, all frustrated and upset.

    If the guy is a total screwup and can't learn, this will be found out soon enough. He will either be out of that job or will be a publisher.
  3. MTM

    MTM Well-Known Member

    How about some constructive critisism?
    If he shows you a page, suggest something he could do to make it look better.
    "Hey Ed, why not move this photo here and make that headline bigger."
    It's possible he just got thrown into the job and he's open to help from others.
    Don't go over his head. It makes you look like a whiner.
  4. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    I'm with MTM. Instead of complaining about him, how about teaching him?

    It might be you'd have the job if you could swing it full time, so instead of fuming, turn it into a positive.

    You haven't said the guy's a dick. Maybe he'll take the suggestions to heart.
  5. forever_town

    forever_town Active Member

    I agree with the above suggestions. Take one step at a time. Perhaps start with style (if your paper has a stylebook, start with that. If not, start with the AP Stylebook or whichever style you observe), then go to design.

    From a designer's standpoint, it would be a LOT more useful if you explained to him 1) what a dogleg is and 2) why it's bad. Same with bumping heads. He's probably breaking all the design rules out of ignorance rather than malice.

    When I started at my current gig, I knew the pagination software and I had a concept of page design, but I still learned a lot of pagination rules during my time here. I've been at my job for nearly two years now and I still take pages I've designed to our production manager and ask for his feedback on them.

    Perhaps you have a reference book on page design that can be a good starting point for him. It could explain some of the theories behind page design or the pratfalls of bad design. Suggest something like the most recent edition of The Newspaper Designer's Handbook.

    He's probably also going to have minimal knowledge of photography for newspapers. I had to learn the hard way about using an excellent photographer's shots in a way that conveyed what she was trying to get across with a photo and into a space where it could work. She nearly asked to not work with me and only work for the other paper in my group.

    I sent her a smooth-things-over e-mail and offered to let her come and observe my layouts and offer feedback. She only came one time, but she's been much happier with the layouts after that one time. She's also said I do a much better job of working her photos into the layout.

    If he's really interested in learning, he'll improve over time. As I hope my example proved, THAT can go a long way.
  6. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Good post by forever, though if you are making the photographers happy, you're probably doing something wrong. ;)
  7. mustangj17

    mustangj17 Active Member

    dumb question: what's a dogleg?
  8. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member


    Hard time finding a good visual example, but a dogleg is a story layed out so that it's not in a modular format. One or more legs are longer than the others.

    Generally, you want all your stories in a rectangular shape.
  9. Chi City 81

    Chi City 81 Guest

    I agree with you, Ace, but sometimes it's damn-near impossible to do if the ad department gives you the Ad Stack of Death.
  10. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    I was gonna give designers an out because of lousy ads, but I figured -- "Screw them bastards. Make it work, dammit!"
  11. Question: Why didn't you have the ages correct to begin with? You're harping on him for not getting it right - you make it sound like you didn't either. Did you do it to test him?
  12. Angola!

    Angola! Guest

    I get the drift that he isn't talking about a story he wrote, rather a story another reporter wrote and the newly promoted guy did a crappy job editing. But that's just a guess.
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