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Leaving the beat

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by SilvioDante, Dec 9, 2007.

  1. SilvioDante

    SilvioDante Member

    Looks like I'll soon be leaving my beat after a few years for a more expansive, more omnipotent role at my shop. The grind had worn on me, like it does on everyone, and it's probably time. I sought the change.

    But it still feels odd, as I file my last few weeks of stories, knowing that a year from now, I won't know every in and out of the team I've covered for years. I guess it becomes so ingrained as part of your life. In a way, I'm worried about beat withdrawal. I mean, it's this perverse pleasure being an expert on a team, knowing that everybody knows your name when you show up every day.

    Anyone ever regret leaving a beat? Or feel like they had withdrawal once gone? How was the transition? If it was awful and everyone regrets it, maybe I'll reconsider. ;)
  2. I was forced to leave my former beat - a bureau - because we decided not to cover it anymore. I was depressed about it, and still miss it because it was a great job: I worked from home and got to make my own hours. The other great thing about it was I absolutely owned that beat. Nothing happened without me knowing about it.

    I'm on a much bigger beat now, which is fine. I've done bigger beats before. I just preferred being part of a smaller community, hanging out with my daughter during office hours.

    The funny thing is, we still try to cover that area but we don't have anyone assigned to it - so guess who gets assigned to it? It's fun calling my old sources on the phone, but I will literally get stuck on the phone for hours catching up. Kind of slows me down.
  3. Norman Stansfield

    Norman Stansfield Active Member

    I actually was thinking of this very topic not too long ago.

    Thankfully I'm still firmly entrenched on my beat -- one I absolutely love -- and hope to remain there. The only positive I can think of is if you also love the sport you're covering and you're shifted off the beat, it at least frees you up to enjoy games and to become a fanboy looser again if you should so choose.
  4. Football_Bat

    Football_Bat Well-Known Member


    Every boy and girl succumbs eventually.
  5. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Active Member

    The more you enjoy and take pride in your beat, the more you give your bosses one more hammer over you in this business. Sad, sick even, but true.

    Many of us have seen it before: A reporter who "owns" a beat gets reassigned to something else, against his or her wishes. Why? Maybe the boss wants to hand-pick his own star for a plum assignment and declare that person an effin' stud, as you folks say here. Maybe the easier/sleazier way to get rid of someone, rather than buying them out or laying them off (and owing severance), is to take away something they feel "ownership" of and stick them on a lesser gig, with a good chance that the person eventually will grow disheartened at the duty or the ingratitude and quit.

    I've seen it over and over, way more than I've seen a veteran staffer lauded for his or her mastery of the beat. That's why it often is safer in this business not to let the bosses know when you're happy, because the odds are good that they will use it against you somehow.

    Sounds perverse and overly cynical, but I think it's true way too often.
  6. EStreetJoe

    EStreetJoe Well-Known Member

    Slightly difference scenario... when I was a schools writer, each season I had a different beat (but kept the same beat in some sports for a couple of years in a row). When I was promoted to the desk and no longer had the beats, I loved it.
    I no longer had to worry about the day-to-day grind of the sport, how well the rest of the staff will pick up the slack for me on my day off (because we're restricted in how many hours we can work a week), the headaches of previews/all-stars, having the beats dictate when I could take a vacation or extended time off, etc.
    As a desker each day begins when I walk in, ends when I walk out and it's an entirely new thing the next day... no day-to-day grind of trying to keep up with everything. If I want to take vacation during the state tournament because the wife has off that week due to the schedule she works, I can take off guilt-free.

    No beat withdrawal here at all.
  7. Norman Stansfield

    Norman Stansfield Active Member

    I sometimes work the desk for spells during the off-season of my beat.

    While the 'leave your job at work' facet is nice, the fact you have to be stuck in an office for eight hours a night, 40 hours a week way overrides that.

    I'm ready to kill myself after about two weeks of that.

    I'll take the 'stress' of beat life any day of the week over office duty.
  8. Twoback

    Twoback Active Member

    Best thing to do to cure the hangover: Hair of the dog.
    Get yourself credentialed for a game, go spend some time around all the people still on the beat and the people you covered.
    It's like bumping into an old girlfriend -- you might be reminded why you were attracted in the first place, but you'll also realize how much better off you are without her.
  9. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    3 months ago I left sports after 18 years (minus a few months on the news side in New Mexico, and that's a whole other story), and now I'm in news. It's a different beast, but I like the daily challenge. Wherever I'd been in sports, I covered the local scene. Drowned the readers in sports; probably why I flamed out everywhere for one reason or another; you go that hard that long with no breaks or semblances of days off and you're bound to wear down faster than the rest.

    Do I miss the last sports beat? Ehh, not really. Certain teams and athletes, yes. There's a girls hoops team in NH that returns most of the team back from a championship squad, and this team has potential to run the table this year. Plus, its biggest rival 5 miles away is a championship contender every year, so there's a great chance they could meet for the whole enchilada. A boys hockey team up there is as good as any in America, and the coach is a great guy, so I miss covering that team a bit.

    But I just don't miss the grind. You can only cover so many games before it becomes one giant ball of blur. I told someone that had I not left sports when I did, I would've grown to hate sports, and I love sports too much to ever hate sports.

    So I'm in news now. It's a different challenge, and I needed a new challenge.
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