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More stringer problems

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Smallpotatoes, Jan 24, 2007.

  1. Smallpotatoes

    Smallpotatoes Well-Known Member

    This weekend, I had a relatively new stringer covering a high school hockey game.
    It's a high school kid. Throughout the fall, he sent me stories about the teams at a local prep school. They weren't bad, a little heavy on opinion and analysis, but nothing I couldn't fix and he was able to get all the essential information in the piece.
    This weekend, he was covering a game played by one of the local public schools. This evening (we're a weekly with a Tuesday deadline)he e-mailed me, asking for a roster. Usually they have them at the games, but maybe he didn't see them or the people at the door ran out. It happens. I sent him a roster.
    A few hours later, almost at midnight, not past deadline, but close, I received his story about a 3-1 loss by the team we cover. There was not one name of any player on either team in the story, not the person who scored the goal, nobody.
    For future reference, yes, I need to stop assuming that certain things that would be common sense for me are common sense for everyone and I need to spell out everything, even the things that I think would go without saying, before I turn a new guy loose.
    But after you've been burned, what do you do? If you have little or no time to track down the information you need and a lot of other stuff you need to do, how do you handle it? And doesn't the fact that you have to track down the information yourself defeat the whole purpose of having somebody at the game?
  2. Crimson Tide

    Crimson Tide Member

    My old SE ran into this problem once. He just called a coach for scoring info, rewrote most of the story, killed the byline. That was the end of the potential stringer's chances.

    That stringer wound up as a full-time reporter for the TV station.

    So, there was some professional training, but the stringer just botched the job. Now, a high school kid? Raw, and could probably be guided. Give it another try.
  3. I'm with Crimson Tide. The kid was conscientious enough to ask for a roster, so he wanted to do a good job -- he just didn't. Beyond that, he sounds as if he has some potential, so I don't think you'd have to ream him out (much) to let him know the story didn't meet your standards. The time you'd spending talking to him about the story seems like a good investment for you.
  4. Dan Hickling

    Dan Hickling Member

    I remember my first gigs....unfortunately...
  5. Gold

    Gold Active Member

    Good point.

    You can't assume a high school student would know how to do it. Just because somebody can read a story doesn't mean they can write one. The cost of your time teaching and editing is the price you pay for not paying a reasonable amount.
  6. Smallpotatoes

    Smallpotatoes Well-Known Member

    Lesson learned...I hope.
  7. Smasher_Sloan

    Smasher_Sloan Active Member

    I'd be at least a little concerned that he wasn't resourceful enough to track down a single name. No PA announcements, no asking the coach or a parent or someone who looked like they were in charge? I can see if he got a name wrong, but who would turn in a story about any kind of game that didn't include a single name? How do you write a story without a name in it?
  8. Dan Hickling

    Dan Hickling Member

    Sounds like the kid just locked up...saw he was in over his head and decided to sink instead of trying to swim....happens....that's where you as editor have to look for the redeeming qualities....if there are none, you say "thanks" and move on...if you see them, then it becomes part of YOUR gig to develop those...with the end result being a serviceable young writer (who will be forever in your debt) and a quality sports section.....
  9. Smasher_Sloan

    Smasher_Sloan Active Member

    If he got nervous on deadline and couldn't write, that's one thing. Being at an event and not being able to discern a single name of a participant? That's a little more troublesome than jitter-induced writers block.
  10. 2underpar

    2underpar Active Member

    you gotta cut the kid some slack. that's where the teaching part of being an editor comes into play. He probably was out of his element a little bit. if it persists, then something has to be done. Don't run him off even before he gets his feet wet in the business.
  11. Sam Mills 51

    Sam Mills 51 Well-Known Member

    As much as we, as a whole in this profession, grumble about not having enough quality people in the business, it sounds as if the kid should get another shot. The "teaching part of an editor" is where I agree wholeheartedly with 2underpar.

    SP's concerns are valid, sure, but how thoroughly did you review everything before sending him out? Did the youngster get a game, maybe even two, to shadow you, then go back and write what he saw, comparing it to what you had?

    The youngster did ask for a roster, so it sounds as if the stringer wanted to do the job properly and not just become the next great teenage columnist. I think it's worth another shot, with some review and pointers before the next time.
  12. Smasher_Sloan

    Smasher_Sloan Active Member

    I'm not saying you shoot the kid. I'm just saying that if this fundamental got away from him, maybe he's not cut out for this type of work. You can teach someone how to make their stories better. You have to assume going in they know the basics like <b>WHO,</b> what, when, where, why.
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