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Question about "The Vanifesto" and its practicality

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by read my stuff, Feb 16, 2007.

  1. read my stuff

    read my stuff New Member

    Longtime journalist and SportsJournalists.com reader but new poster.

    I've read "The Vanifesto" and am impressed by it, but I'd like to know from those who either worked in Orlando or know someone who did about just how closely the sports department adhered to those polices over the years.
    I'm curious how much resistance there was from reporters, how many people left the paper, how many people were fired because they couldn't cut it and exactly which goals were and were not met.
    That type of mission statement is outstanding, but it's useless if a continual effort was not made to force reporters to live up to their end of the bargain. I've seen many occasions in this business where substandard employees get to hang around even though they don't pull their weight. And if the goals are that lofty, clearly there must have been some (many?) who couldn't live up to the standards.
  2. shotglass

    shotglass Guest

    This is from someone who has no knowledge of how well it was pulled off as far as the specifics -- live art every day on centerpieces, a centerpiece every day, etc.

    But the Vanifesto couldn't be pulled off by just any sports editor. He would have to have a proven track record as he came in, so he could say, "I've been there, and I can take you there."

    That was Van McKenzie.
  3. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    Or you can hire gullible people. I worked for a guy who told me he was the best sports editor in the nation. I was 21 and he was great at a few things and the section won APSEs, so I believed him. He told me that if I gave him two years I could work for anybody. That's a crazy promise in the sense that not all sports editors have the same taste or needs when hiring, but when I left 25 months later it was for a paper triple the size. When I left I had to unlearn a few things, but I was vastly better for having worked for him. His M.O. was to hire very young desk people and mold them in his image. If you have charisma, do a few things really well and hire inexperienced people, you can make them believe. If that's your trip.

    Never worked for Van McKenzie, but worked for one in that league and with a few who became great sports editors or news editors later. All of them had confidence but not arrogance and motivated primarily by example. That doesn't just mean just working hard; I worked for one workaholic who commanded zero respect because he is an idiot with no game beyond bluster and gimmicks. The good ones set standards that are high enough to inspire a spirit that we do it as best as it can be done given our resources, are reasonable when there's a good explanation why we fell short on a given day but have a solution at the ready, inspire loyalty by showing confidence in people by letting them do their jobs without excessive oversight, are unthreatened by other people's talent and develop an atmosphere in which people feel free to speak candidly about where we fall short and what we can do about it. They are so confident in themselves that they do not need to play the star.

    The best one I worked for, well, I knew he was a great sports editor because of his reputation and because so many sports editors had worked for him. One night my assignment was to take notes from a few sports writers over the phone, scan the wires and meld them into one long story that we would ship to the news desk for A-1. I had this jumbled mess on my screen and was beginning the process of organizing it, when the SE wandered by and asked if I wanted some help. He looked at the mess for about two minutes and said, "Well, I think I would do (this) and (that) and (this)." I have never seen a human mind move that quickly and coherently. I thought, holy shit, he must have been unbelievably great at this job before he started running a department, but he rarely steps in and tries to do it for us.

    From what I've read here about McKenzie, he was sort of like Steve Winwood in that he could play every instrument on the CD if he wanted, yet he attracted top talent because he did let someone else play lead guitar on a given night. Manifesto or no manifesto, that's how great plan becomes great product.
  4. hondo

    hondo Well-Known Member

    Also, how much of the Vanifesto would be practical is this age of newsroom budget cuts? You've got the money and the staff, you can do this stuff. You don't, and you can't.
  5. Rusty Shackleford

    Rusty Shackleford Active Member

    Here's Babelfish's opinion of the Vanifesto:

    With the sporting personnel of Orlando of symbol of indication: I delighted to work very soon with each one of you. In the sporting sections over the last years much again did not arrive. Of DasIST, in Orlando will modify here towards the line, and will be to you on the point a part of him. We will develop together and produce the model for the sporting section of the new millenium. Immediately starting, each decision met is based on the achievement of an objective, to be the best sporting section in the country. Not 10 superiors. The best. It is a convex objective, and we have work, to make, to receive there. We start, by raising the journalistic standards of Orlando of section of sport of symbol of indication on a higher level. What was good rather yesterday, is not rather good today. And that we are good tomorrow today, not enough. My first weeks on employment are devoted to communication and planning. I meet particularly with each one of you. Await me I you to come to the meeting which is prepared with 10 ideas which form the sporting section better. Those could the stories of company and study which include/understand qualities or a series, a cover of impact, a cover of photograph and graph, etc. The ideas do not require to be limited to your impact or the sector of competence. I asked more hoppes around Lynn, to coordinate these half an hour meetings over the next weeks. There are the weekly meetings to examine each impact. Of Johnny Whitehead, Roger Simmons and Lynn arrange those including/understanding does not limit however various authors and the editors, to the journalists of impact one invites come with ideas. We begin a series planning with long range of sections of training with various useful editors, the plan and of the writers, the journalists and Feuilletonisten. Our objective is a project of company principal for each day, complete with the work of organization or the photograph and begins June 1. To complete this one, we must project in advance these 100 days projects and. At least two letters of company of projects are assigned in more in more with all the journalists and authors their work of daily impact and the general instructions. I asked more around Joan Andrew, to direct this project. New daily work a calendar is announced. Each one is contained: Editor, literary page, author, journalist, etc... If on an instruction, of Orlando-gegruendete do not become journalists and authors expect not to be later than 1 TOKEN ENTRY in the daily office. It one expects to do much of your letter in the office. Some journalists are marked like general instruction. The journalists who are founded in other cities, are assigned to be around in office at least once every week. Some-of my ideas and directing political of each one should be conscious: Words food with beyond: You never take "all." With words to die in beyond: "the this manner is not, we make around the things here." Each tariff of the sporting section is again evaluated. Some old qualities are eliminated and form the sector for new cover and of the ideas. The reproduction is put on information breaking. Not Orlando right stories, however national stories too. Journalist one one never expects to strike local information a history. Unfortunately journalist who must cover a press conference to receive information. The best authors than I know, are also the best journalists me know. The best journalists work tous.les.jours the telephone and have personal principal numbers for each player in the league which they cover. There is a premium on the ideas which manufacture the section of sport of symbol of indication like single product with a "completely clean constitution. It there has more opinion and analyzes in the sporting section. File of the photographs are not used for the art of central part. Photographs of phase and the work of organization are used tous.les.jours. File of the photographs are not used so that of Mug-shots. This one requires a preplanification and of Korrdination with that kunstabteilung and foto -. Copy and editor of plan one expects to be a daily source for stories and ideas of graph. Stories firmer are worked out, although not necessarily more briefly. Some stories, like progress of play and results, are shorter and more analytical. As a quantity resounds a work the extra one. It is. They could ask, as lesquel "recreation" which I promised a beginning? It starts, if you penetrate a box of press and whirr of other authors on new Orlando sporting section. It starts, if other sections on the county copy new Orlando with sporting section. It starts, if you enter with sources in relation and know them and your newspaper. most important, it starts, if you know that you are a great part of the best sporting crew in the county. It arrives here. I promise. Van F McKenzie
  6. Montezuma's Revenge

    Montezuma's Revenge Active Member

    My head hurts.
  7. Angola!

    Angola! Guest

    You may want to consider therapy for your addiction to Babelfish.
  8. Buddy Martin

    Buddy Martin New Member

    Methinks you miss the point of what you call the "Vanifesto."
    The purpose is to aspire to something great and that, in itself,
    inspires excellence. Van didn't invent all of those paradigms.
    His staff never achieved all of the goals anywhere. The reason
    we're all still talking about it is that we are intrigued by his
    blueprint for success: Asking for your best work and often getting it.
  9. I know nothing of Van.

    With that said, I'd roll my eyes if my new editor rolled into town talking like that. Maybe I've been in Gannett too long. The idea of someone, an editor, taking command of a section and making it better through his/her own ideas and thoughts seems impractical now. I'm not a cynical person, though I work for a cynical company and I'm in a cynical business. Roll into Gannett these days with Vanifesto-style verve and you'll be finished within a month.

    Much love,
    murci xoxoxoxox
  10. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    The thing is, he rolled in and the powers-that-be gave him the keys to hire all kinds of folks. So he had sway not only over impressionable youngsters like a l'il Frank but over publishers and bean counters.
  11. Moondoggy

    Moondoggy Member

    Like everyone here, I admired Van's work. I also admired his ability to get pretty much whatever he wanted from beancounters and bosses. I have a legitimate question, though. For all the flash and dash of his section, and the legendary trips taken his superstar staff to pretty much any damn place they wanted to go, did the bulk of the readership of the Orlando Sentinel really care?

    We loved Van because he liked writers and indulged them, but his theories on what makes a great section ran counter to practically every bit of research out there about readership habits. The Sentinel sports section became basically a magazine when surveys say people just wanted to know who won the prep game between Boone and Jones.

    My guess is that Mr. Hoppes and the present-day Sentinel staff will pay for dearly for all the globe-trotting and glitz through extra tight budgets in the next few years. But it was fun while it lasted.
  12. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    I have yet to see a survey that has been proven right about "what readers want." For all the surveys and focus groups that this business has had in the last 25 years, there's still an iceberg-sized hole in the ship. Now, maybe the data is wrong or (more likely) we haven't done a good job implementing that data.

    But I wouldn't discount McKenzie's theories because they "run counter to readership habits."

    Frankly, I don't think readers of a general-interest newspaper can be pigeon-holed by surveys. Too many people like to read too many different types of stories to come up with accurate "habits."
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