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Job hunting: Is my focus too narrow?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by RedHotChiliPrepper, Mar 27, 2014.

  1. Been at my shop now for almost 5 years. I love it here. The people I work with are cool, we do a lot of good work, and I've really taken a new step as a writer since coming here when I was laid off from my previous shop.

    Although I've always perused the job openings across the country, I've really started to look at other opportunities. I'm 31, been in the business since I was 17 when I started as basically a phone bitch. Won a few state and national awards and been a part of some really good staffs for paper's our size (both are under 30,000 circ).

    My goal has always been to cover professional baseball. I have that opportunity at my current shop, but it's a rookie-league affiliate of the Phillies. It only lasts about 8-10 weeks during the summer and I lose two weeks of that coverage to some big youth baseball tournament that happens in town every year. I'm looking for a bigger opportunity with a full-season minor league club. I know I could cover an MLB team now if given the opportunity, but those opportunities aren't just handed out to guys who've never covered baseball above short-season Class A ball.

    So, with all that being said, is my focus for a job search too narrow by looking for only jobs which would involve coverage of professional baseball? Do I need to be more broad, maybe look for D1 college gigs to better prove I can handle higher profile beats? I'm not afraid to move from the area, in fact, traveling out west or down south doesn't sound like too bad an option.

    Thanks in advance for any advice.
  2. awriter

    awriter Active Member

    To answer your question: Yes.
  3. WriteThinking

    WriteThinking Well-Known Member

    That's not really helpful, because he's obviously not looking to get out of newspapers.

    I never had baseball as a beat, so I never covered pros, except for a few miscellaneous summer Class-A minor-league games and a couple major-league games that were, basically, just for the experience of doing it. I never took it anywhere, or did anything with it, and I never wanted to. Baseball just wasn't my thing, and it was never going to be.

    If it's yours, I wouldn't say your focus is too narrow, though. If that's what you want to do, then that's what you want to do. I would, however, be as aggressive as possible about seeking out a high-profile college baseball or major-league beat or full-season minor-league opportunity, perhaps of a higher level than Class-A.

    As long as you like where you're working (which is great, because it will enable you to job-hunt without desperation and you'll be able to put thought and consideration into what you're doing and what you're seeking), I would keep watching out for different job opportunities and responding to those that interest you. I'd also see if you can freelance on some college or some pro baseball games/features if there are any teams covered by out-of-town papers/media outlets that ever swing through your area, or near it, during the year.

    Try to make introductory contact with as many sports editors of papers and web sites as possible, especially those in the areas in which you think you might most like to work. By doing this at a time when you don't actually need a job, makes it more likely that it could be more informal, and yet, sometimes, more informative. Everyone can be more at ease, because nobody's put on the spot or necessarily holding anything close to the vest, and that will make it easier to build rapport. Tell 'em what you'd like and then try to build on any relationships that you can. Oh, and make it clear that you're willing and able to move, and try to find out whether any recent/future hires have been or will be anything other than regional-centric. (That is a big obstacle these days, even if/when people are willing to move).

    Oftentimes, a paper doesn't want to consider anybody outside their region, and if that's the case, you'd be well-served by knowing that.

    It also probably wouldn't hurt to make contacts at MLB.com and ask about any possible opportunities that might be available there, whether internship, or not. Even a temporary position there could gain you a lot of contacts that would serve you well.
  4. BDC99

    BDC99 Well-Known Member

    Follow Write's advice, and I would agree that I don't think your focus is too narrow. There are tons of minor-league teams out there for you to find something. I would think a D1 gig would require more experience than covering minor-league baseball, but if you've been doing this that long, you should be able to latch on to cover a small to medium program. In my experience, smaller-town papers are the ones covering the minors, and with your experience, it shouldn't be a problem finding something. Provided anyone is hiring, of course.
  5. WriteThinking

    WriteThinking Well-Known Member

    Don't forget to inquire of sports editors about the possibilities of secondary/back-up baseball beat writing. Most large and medium-sized papers that would travel with major-college or pro teams still have them -- for baseball, at least, and the back-up writer often is substantially involved throughout the season, or at least during key games or stretches of the season.

    This can be a great, first-rate opportunity, yet come without the beat responsibility being mainly yours. The result can be some exponential growth experiences and exposure to the same contacts and job possibilities as the primary beat writer.
  6. BDC99

    BDC99 Well-Known Member

    Don't disagree at all, but not sure how many of these jobs are out there anymore. I'm at a fairly large daily, and the only dedicated backup we have is for the local NFL team. Used to have one for the MLB and NHL teams as well. Of course we once had an auto racing and golf writer too. You could definitely learn a lot working with the primary beat writer. Some of our better writers got their start that way. A shame it's not that realistic anymore.
  7. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    Good for you. I started as a phone bitch, too, at 16 and got an MLB beat (and it turned out I hated it) for a suburban paper of about 100K then via an in-house promotion after covering lots of preps, beat writer on women's pro hoops and a little backup on NBA and MLB.

    I know it sometimes happens, but no paper I've been on has hired a pro beat writer based on their coverage of a minor-league team. If you've been doing good work for a paper and a pro beat opens, most people do not care which sport it is -- they just want to be promoted. And I've seen my employers hire someone else's NBA writer for our MLB, NHL writer for NFL, etc. I've also seen lots of people cover a beat for a smaller paper in the market and get hired for the same beat at a larger paper in that market (and sometimes vice versa).

    Point is, if you had a chance to cover an NHL team right now, would you turn it down because your heart is set on MLB?
  8. BDC99

    BDC99 Well-Known Member

    Good point, FR. As has been discussed here many times, the MLB beat is a bitch and young, single people are the only ones who can handle it for an extended period (generally). The travel, being away from home, the daily grind. It gets to everyone eventually. And the NHL beat isn't much better. Now if you COULD score one of the backup gigs and cover a lot of home games and do the occasional road trip, that would be a great scenario.
  9. I think the only pro beat I might turn down is an NBA beat, only because I absolutely detest the product right now and I wouldn't even be able to fake my way through pretending I'd enjoy that beat.

    I think you folks have answered my question. I love baseball, I love being at the ballpark, I love talking baseball. Even now on my nights off from covering the team I cover I head out to other minor league parks to watch games. It's how I relax. But I understand how it could be advantageous to step off my path in order to get closer to the goal.

    I'm fortunate enough (or unfortunate, depending on how you see it) to be single and not tied to anything where I live, but I know someday if I'm fortunate enough to have a family of my own I'll never be able to handle a gig like a pro baseball beat and be the family-man I'd like to be. So I've realized, I think, I need to start making a push toward this.

    Thanks everyone for the responses.
  10. BDC99

    BDC99 Well-Known Member

    Good luck!
  11. awriter

    awriter Active Member

    Don't pigeonhole yourself. Who do you think is closer to landing a major league baseball beat at metro? A reporter covering minor league ball at a small daily or one covering an NBA, NHL, NFL or D-I beat? Point is if you see an opening like that, go for it. If you show you can handle a beat like that, you'll ultimately be closer to landing that dream job covering baseball.
  12. BDC99

    BDC99 Well-Known Member

    I'm pretty sure he knows all of this. He is confident in his ability but knows he needs to work his way up. Try reading again.

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