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September: Four weeks of hell

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Mark2010, Sep 6, 2010.

  1. Mark2010

    Mark2010 Active Member

    I work at a mid-sized daily newspaper that, like many others, has seen both its staff and newshole shrunk this past year.

    Through smart planning and management we got through the summer without having to compromise too much and everyone on staff even got in at least a mini-vacation. Now September has arrived, which means college and high school sports piled on top of our minor league baseball team battling for its league title and the junior hockey team that will be starting in three weeks.

    We've had meetings with the high school coaches and ADs to explain that we simply do not have the manpower to staff every single in-town event, as was often done in years past.

    Furthermore, we've made a commitment to run wire on the major national events: MLB, NFL, college football, golf, etc. on at least a minimal level. So just because high schools are starting up, I can't suddenly drop the daily MLB page in mid-season. When the NFL season starts next week, even Sundays are going to be a nightmare trying to jam everything in.

    I know we are not alone in this predicament, so I would be interested to hear from others at mid-sized dailies at how you are balancing coverage, and particularly, the space you are given in this very busy time of year.
  2. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    In my neck of the woods, which isn't far from Mark's, I had a coach ask why we couldn't staff a volleyball game on Friday night. Managed to get a picture and roundup in, but football will always be king. My paper doesn't have the manpower with a two-person sports desk. Someone still has to put the paper together.
  3. Shoeless Joe

    Shoeless Joe Active Member

    Yeah, we don't cover every single event. But as long as the coaches phone it in, local high school copy goes in before anything off the wire. Our local minor league team was unfortunate enough to have its home finale on the first Friday night of the high school football season. We have just enough bodies for our high school teams. Sorry minor leaguers, send us a recap and we'll squeeze it in.
  4. Steak Snabler

    Steak Snabler Well-Known Member

    I got an email asking for coverage of Pee Wee football opening day ... on a Saturday morning ... during football season.

    Other than that, everyone else around here seems OK with where they are in the pecking order. We'll staff the occasional regular-season volleyball or softball game and follow them through the playoffs, but otherwise high school/college football is king, and everyone knows it.
  5. Mark2010

    Mark2010 Active Member

    Yeah, that's the rub. I've been doubling as a reporter and desk person and it's exhausting. Thursday I covered a prep golf match then came to the office and did six pages.

    Friday, I covered a prep football game that started at 4 p.m., that ended 63-48 (11-man) and then came in and did six pages. Obviously, the quality is compromised a bit, but I thought it was better than simply blowing off the events.

    Volleyball, soccer, cross country are phoners except in rare exceptions.

    But back to the other issue..... how do you allocate your space when there's simply more stuff going on?
  6. JimmyHoward33

    JimmyHoward33 Well-Known Member

    We don't run wire, simple as that. Especially the out of town stuff. We'll squeeze in the home town pros someplace if we can but otherwise only if there's space.
  7. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    We budget out pretty far in advance what we're going to cover. Sports other than football aren't going to make it in the paper other than a box score most nights. Fill up the rest with wire, or in some cases, shared copy between papers in the same chain.
  8. Shoeless Joe

    Shoeless Joe Active Member

    I always get a chuckle from folks who think it's a big deal to cover something then come back and do layout. I've never known anything different. We don't have "desk people" everyone is everything everyday. I don't shoot pictures, but as far being a reporter, copy editor and layout, it's just a normal day.

    About the only time we have a true desk person is when a couple of the local schools are playing each other on Friday nights and that relieves someone from covering a game so they stay in the office.
  9. HanSenSE

    HanSenSE Well-Known Member

    I spent about three months lobbying the ME, circulation director and promotions manager for a later deadline on Fridays in the fall so I could get out to games (like many of you, we're a two-man operation) and, sure enough, a potential double whammy on the first Friday of the season. A late start in the game I went to, meaning for the first time in my career I had to take off at halftime and hope the guy operating the scoreboard would really call me with a final (he did), and an injury that led to a 20-minute delay in the JV game in the other one we staffed. The reporter had a laptop, so he was able to write from the scene and I manned the phones. Made deadline with 10 minutes to spare!

    Biggest thing I find is to get as much done as possible before heading out. We get three open pages, but the third I've made into a dedicated NFL preview page on Saturdays. On my front, I run a scoreboard/TV grid on the left rail and try to get something down on the anchor (usually a college football preview). Non-local agate is cut to the essentials: Standings and state boxes.
  10. Shoeless Joe

    Shoeless Joe Active Member

    That's never been an issue for us. We set deadline on football Fridays. The press manager/circulation comes and asks us early Friday "what time do you think you'll have last page back?"

    It's actually either quite funny or sad but we can go out, cover football games, haul ass back to the office, write, lay out 5-6 pages and still beat the news people who have been in the office since about 6 p.m.
  11. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    I always get a chuckle from guys who think they work the hardest out of anyone. It's tough to do everything and quality suffers if you run back from a game and rush through a couple of pages.
  12. Hank_Scorpio

    Hank_Scorpio Active Member

    JV games on the same night as the varsity?

    Here, JV is usually Thursday night. Makes one less thing you have to worry about.
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