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Looking for career advice

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Beef03, Sep 26, 2012.

  1. Beef03

    Beef03 Active Member

    Alright, I've contemplated asking this for about a week now and the dream job thread prompted me to finally do so. I need some career advice on how I should handle my current situation.

    Apologize ahead of time for being a long-winded bastard.

    The crossroads I'm headed for is based on a number of factors:
    1) I turn 30 in early December. I never thought it would mean anything to me except just another day. But suddenly I've started to take stock of my life and my career. I'm single and have nothing tying me down. I have now been in the industry for a little over 10 years -- I graduated high school at 17, shitty two year course later and, wham, I'm a journalist at a small weekly paper. I followed that as a sports editor at a three times weekly and then a sports desker at a mid-sized daily for four years. I currently am a sports editor at a small daily which I went to because I felt like I was rotting on the desk. I got into this to to write and my current job gives me more than I could ask for on that regard. Without sounding arrogant, I am more than confident in my writing. But I am always striving to improve. Part of the paranoia I am facing is if I'm not at a metro now, have I missed the boat? Do I risk being typecast as a community sports reporter because I've being doing it for a decade?

    2) Said small daily I work at is quickly heading down the shitter, especially in terms of quality since a change of publisher about six months ago, many changes at the top, etc. The emphasis now mainly appears to be on filling space and to play ball with advertisers, to hell with integrity. My department is a one-man department with help from a floating reporter on my days off. When we have a floating reporter that is, and there isn't other news stuff they can find for him to do. Regardless, I am quite frustrated with the situation. I still do my best to maintain my high standards, the new publisher has thankfully kept his nose out of sports for the most part, but there is little motivation for me to put down further roots and want to be here long term after rebuilding the section in under a year -- they went almost two years without any dedicated sports staff after the old SE died on the job.

    3) The dream once upon a time was to be a syndicated sports columnist. That dream is still there. However, I have no illusion over the likelihood of that ever happening in this day and age of the industry. Really I want to eventually end up on a pro beat at a metro.

    4) The industry. When I accepted the job I have now it was part of one of the major nationwide chains in Canada. Then the day before I moved out the paper was sold out of the chain to a regional chain. While I am secure in my job right now -- I don't think I will be laidoff -- I am not happy at all with the paper. I like some of the people I work with but, damn, there is so much that sucks right now and is not what I signed up for when I decided to move across the country. Also the uncertainty within the industry, I have no idea if it is really worth sticking it out in -- the oil patch is waiting, eh? -- but I also have no idea what else I want to do, and believe me I have thought about this long and hard for several years.

    OK, the dilemma after my long winded approach. I obviously want to move up. My fall back is to wait it out and go back to the mid-sized paper that I was a copy editor at, this time as a sports reporter, in a little over a year. Waiting on a current sports reporter to retire. They've already tried to recruit me back as a general news reporter, which I have no interest in. I want to be a sports reporter. Not an editor. Not a copy editor. Still there is no guarantee that the position will even be kept after he retires, they're cutting like everyone else. Also it's not a major chain, but it would be a good stepping stone to one.

    So I've been talking this over with a coworker and friend, a news features writer turned news editor. He seems convinced the only way I move up is by cutting way back on the rest of my section -- basically saying screw it to a large part of the sporting community -- and throwing everything into trying to win an award for a story. Keep in mind, he cares little if anything at all about sports and thinks I have too much space as it is. I have great difficulty wrapping my head around this concept of cutting way back and throwing all my eggs into one basket. At my first couple of stops I won provincial community newspaper awards for my sections -- and don't get me wrong, I know no one at the next level really cares about awards I won at weekly papers five years ago. However my coworker seems to believe that because I will be going up against departments with more than one person in them that section awards aren't realistic for me at this level, just from a man power stand point. Let me be clear when it comes to my coverage, I cover what I realistically can to put out a quality product. I still think I go above and beyond, but there is no real way I can cover absolutely everything I want to, and with a shrinking news hole there is no way I would be able to get it all in anyway. So this is my big question, after all of this, how much emphasis is put on awards in terms of getting to the next level. Also, should I focus more on finding a meal ticket story at the expense of the section? I already donate more than enough of my time to the company to cover what I do, there's not a whole lot more of my life I can put towards the job. I've never put a ton of emphasis on awards -- absolutely, they are great to win -- I've always considered them very subjective and not make or break for a career. I've always thought to let my portfolio speak for itself, which has a number of in depth pieces in it that I am very proud of.
    Have I been going about it all wrong?

    Any help or direction would be much appreciated.
  2. WriteThinking

    WriteThinking Well-Known Member

    If you want a college or pro beat job at a metro, start applying to those jobs when they come up. It's the only way to land one.

    Don't worry about stereotyping. You are what you are, and your career so far is what it is. Don't sell it short or count yourself out of anything. If they're going to do that, let the editors at the bigger papers do it, and deal with it then.

    Right now, it sounds like you only have one thing you know definitely could, or might, happen -- at your former paper. And even that isn't a given since it's not happening now.

    Realize that your entire post is based on speculation. Nothing will change unless you start taking actual steps that might potentially bring change. Until then, you're just thinking about it, and it sounds like you've already been doing that for a while.

    It's time to do something -- take some steps -- and see if those lead to next steps. What you're asking about is a process, and until you actually take some steps, there's not much to talk about or to advise.

    I would start by getting in touch with a trusted, truly in-the-know contact at your former paper -- preferably someone higher up, who may know, as certainly as is possible, about what may be coming down the pipe there, and when, and really, whether they mean it with regard to both wanting you back, and the likelihood of it actually happening. And don't only listen for/to what you may want to hear. Try to get the unvarnished truth, whatever it may be.

    Then, or even before then, I'd start looking, seriously, for a job that's more in line with what you ultimately want. You could start by applying for, oh, that Miami Dolphins beat writer opening at the Sun Sentinel that's listed on the jobs board of this site. There are also some other jobs there that might be up your alley -- both for beat writers and sports columnists. See what happens, and then go from there. That's really all you can do.
  3. Beef03

    Beef03 Active Member

    I appreciate your reply WriteThinking. This is really what I'm looking for. I'm trying to figure out what the right steps are. I know I am not likely going from here straight to a metro, although the odd reporter has. The problem is, in Canada there are so few metros, and at this point they're not exactly hiring sports staff. But when those jons come open I want to be in the best position I can be. My biggest question really is, should I be going all in on trying to put together an award winning piece or should I concentrate on the depth and of my portfolio and the overall quality of the section?

    I have already had some contact with the old paper and it does sound very promising. There's a number of people I can phone over there and I definitely will in the near future.

    Thank you again.
  4. WriteThinking

    WriteThinking Well-Known Member

    I would go all in on an a potentially -- that is the key word there -- award-winning piece if it presents itself in the course of your work. Otherwise, I'm not sure I would make that your mission in your current job. Because, let's face it, even if you focus on doing that, your potentially award-winning story still has to be selected as the winner. And that does not always happen.

    I know of at least three people who specifically wrote stories and/or series with the entire idea in mind being to win an award...and then, they didn't, anyway.

    In my opinion, the important thing, especially as you've already won a couple of awards (whether they're smaller, or provincial, or whatever doesn't matter; the fact of the matter is that you've been recognized), when you're applying for better jobs is your body of work, and, of course, any interviews.

    And, if you can do it at all, I would, perhaps, think outside of Canadian borders. That does limit your options.

    I hope this helps.
  5. Beef03

    Beef03 Active Member

    That definitely helps. Thanks again
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