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Post-print Newspaper World

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Joe Williams, Sep 9, 2009.

  1. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Active Member

    The latest on the Chicago Sun-Times got me to thinking:

    If we were going to start a "newspaper" from the ground up in 2010, what would we want it to be and how would we staff it -- specifically, how would we staff the Sports dept.?

    I'm thinking it would be a Web-only publication, right? If the market it was based in has five major professional teams, would it need five full-time traveling beat writers? Or might there be another way to go -- beat writers who didn't necessarily travel all the time? What about significant college teams to cover? How could we get that done and still not dig a huge well of red ink?

    And here is the biggie: How many staffers would you need in Sports and in a legitimate newsroom overall to get the job -- a good job, a marketable job -- done? How many and at what pay? Would $40K for full-timers find enough takers with talent?

    I'm just basing this question on my thought that, for many newsrooms, it's going to take half as many journalists, each making half as much money as they do now, for a news operation to survive and thrive. Definitely it would hurt like hell, or drive away entirely, veteran people making more money now who are accustomed to greater conditions and ambition. But if you were starting from scratch, would you have to go this bare bones? How many reporters would be the minimum necessary to cover a city such as Chicago, and how many copy editors, photographers and inside folks to support them?

    Or are the Sun-Times and other papers across the country already below the minimum staffing and pay levels?
  2. BTExpress

    BTExpress Well-Known Member

    When Wilt scored 100 points in Hershey, Pa., the byline in The Philadelphia Inquirer read "Special to the Inquirer."

    It was written by Harvey Pollack, the Warriors' PR guy. He also wrote the game accounts for AP and UP on that night.

    When the game started, not a single photographer was in the building.

    An AP guy on his day off happened to be there with his kid as a fan. When it became obvious something special was happening, he went to his car and got his camera. That's pretty much why anything at all from that game exists on film.

    My point?

    The idea of beat writers traveling to every road game is really the historical exception. It's something that happened only the past couple of decades when newspapers were practically printing money.
  3. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    You won't see several reporters from one organization cover the Super Bowl to get an unoriginal story. I see enterprise being the key to differentiating yourself in a world where everyone can put their opinion up online.
  4. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Active Member

    Enterprise on the local teams probably, huh? So no travel costs are involved and there's less chance of redundancy with the big boys (NYT, WSJ, ESPN)?

    I suppose the idea of metro-paper columnists traveling to the big events is kind of outdated, and sending your beat guy for a couple of localized angles and a lot of coverage you can get from the wires or the big boys really seems like a bad use of limited resources now.
  5. TheMethod

    TheMethod Member

    I disagree on both counts. If you have an interesting columnist and a good beat guy, their coverage is going to be vastly more valuable than the AP's. And even if you've got mediocre writers, you're still branding your coverage with them and giving people a reason to come to you rather than ESPN.com.

    I can't speak for everybody, but at our paper -- where we cover two Division I programs everywhere they go -- our sports coverage is very well consumed, even with two other competing newspapers covering the same things, not to mention the Web sites, the AP and sometimes the national outlets.

    I do, however, think enterprise is going to be a huge factor in the success of newspaper companies moving forward. It's easily the best way to distinguish us from the other media, and from within our own medium.
  6. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    If branding matters, put everything behind a pay wall and see if it can pay to send a couple of writers around the country chasing a team or two. In the beginning, a Web-only operation has to be barebones and travel would have to come when the money starts rolling in.
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