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Shortest stint at a paper?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by rgd, Jun 25, 2006.

  1. Ben_Hecht

    Ben_Hecht Active Member

    Couch them as delicately as you must, but ASK THE TOUGH QUESTIONS. Be CERTAIN in your own mind that you're
    not going to get blindsided with a worst-possible scenario . . .
  2. Starman

    Starman Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the setup, Ben...

    I was once hired as SE at a small daily (really not all that small - about 20,000), whose sports coverage had been "micro-local." That is, 4 x 10 pictures of youth league baseball on the section front, and 18-inch game stories of junior high and freshman games. The paper was 30 miles away from a major Division I football/basketball powerhouse, and 60 miles away from a major-league city. Pro and college sports were bumped inside, and always cut to make room for the local stuff.

    During the hiring process, I was told in no uncertain terms by the publisher and the managing editor they wanted to CHANGE THIS. That's why I was being brought in -- the previous SE refused to do it; he was stalling and dragging his feet.

    They wanted to go to a more modern look for the paper, adopt contemporary design and news priority standards, and become a paper readers could use for ALL their sports interests. Local sports was to be somewhat deemphasized -- not eliminated, but reduced somewhat in scope, and put in context with the overall sports interests of the entire community (as opposed to parents of kids in little league, and freshman volleyball players -- in other words, about 95% of the readership).

    I told them during the interview process that I was willing and able to do this. I also had a plan to do it -- to maintain coverage of almost all the events currently appearing in the paper, but to handle them in roundups and briefs. Local sports of higher significance -- varsity sports -- would continue to appear in the paper every day. Pro and college sports would appear on the front in terms of overall news value.

    They thought the plan sounded great. Smiles and good feelings all around. I told them, they needed to be aware going in, there was certainly going to be some reader resistance. Probably quite a bit. "If youth league softball parents and junior-varsity soccer parents are used to seeing 18-inch game stories on Page 1, they aren't going to be happy about 4-inch capsules on Page 3," I said. "Yes, yes, of course, we know," they said. "We're aware of that, and we will back you up all the way." Fine. I take the job.

    On about my fourth day at work, I arrived to find about a dozen "Reader Complaint Response Forms" on my desk. Where is the girls' slow-pitch game story? What happened to the tee-ball league report? Inside on Page 3? The hell with that!! Johnny Oldsportseditor always put us on Page 1!! I don't give a damn about the freaking NCAA Final Four including the team 30 miles away, I want my girls' slow-pitch softball!!"

    This was the place, I discovered, where ALL reader complaints --every single one, even anonymous calls saying, "your paper sucks" -- had to receive a written response, an action plan to satisfy the reader's complaint. "The complaint is invalid" was not considered an acceptable response. And of course, the daytime phone staff, brownnoses and suckups all, was always very, very happy to take complaint messages in great detail (and CC them to Mr. Publisher).

    An amazing number of the anonymous complaints mentioned, "Johnny Oldsportseditor never did things this way. If I want to read about Bigstate U. or the Bigcity Bashers, I'll buy the Major Metro Outstate Daily!!"

    (Of course, that was the reason they wanted to make the change -- pretty much all the readers who didn't have kids playing tee-ball or freshman volleyball, that is, 95% of the readership -- were indeed reading the Major Metro Outstate Daily.)

    I immediately ran into Mr. Publisher's office. "Hey, what happened to 'we'll support you' and all that stuff?" I said. "Oh, we support you, but you still have to fill out these response forms, come up with action plans, and put them into operation. The Customer Is Always Right. No exceptions." Mr. Managing Editor sat there and nodded his head pleasantly. "What kind of action plan am I supposed to come up with, since their complaints consist mainly of 'we want you to completely quit everything you're doing?' " I asked. "Well, figure something out," they replied.

    Somehow, I made it through 10 months. That was also the joint that fired me 10 days after my mother died. Johnny Oldsportseditor, of course, was brought back to replace me.

    I'da gone back and leveled the place with a flamethrower, except 3-4 years after I left, there wasn't a soul left in the joint from when I was there -- and that included Mr. Publisher and Mr. M.E. And, for that matter, Johnny Oldsportseditor, either.
  3. wickedwritah

    wickedwritah Guest

    Stayed 6 months at my last job -- 5.9 months too long. Kept telling myself it'd get better, and I kept fooling myself until our editor decided that a politically connected source's comments about my (lack of) reporting ability had not one tinge of bias in them. Resignation letter on her desk 24 hours later.
  4. JayFarrar

    JayFarrar Well-Known Member

    When you say industry do you just mean newspapers or other forms of mass communication because it happens in radio all the time. People go on vacation, come back and their keys don't work anymore. The locks were changed. They got fired while they were gone and no one bothered to tell them. Or they get fired on a whim, and the wife of the owner calls them that afternoon to tell them to come back in the morning and act like nothing happened ala Costanza.
    TV folks get treated the same way. I know of one sports anchor in a top 20 market and the first job out of college ended local news and management didn't bother telling anyone. People showed up and couldn't get in.
    And on the second question, reporters and editors don't produce revenue, they just spend money. Plus every publisher/owner knows that they can get 10 people in for an interview within a week. Even crappy jobs will get filled by a fresh college grad in a couple of weeks.
  5. wickedwritah

    wickedwritah Guest

    Which is sad.

    This has been touched on before, but the fact that we agree to work for such shitty wages devalues our profession as a whole.

    I'm starting to think it is the responsibility of comm schools to teach their students about where to work and where not to work.

    It might greatly reduce the number of people willing to start out their careers with the JRCs of the world.

    Yes, you have to earn your stripes somewhere. Still, I don't see where working at the equivalent of a puppy mill gets you in life, other than potentially providing an ulcer and meaning you get to live in a roach-infested domicile.
  6. Ben_Hecht

    Ben_Hecht Active Member

    Star . . . yep. Kept myself away from at least one National-type business-ignorant situation by reconsidering just who I
    was dealing with, and steering away -- just in time . . .
  7. tonysoprano

    tonysoprano Member

    1 night.

    I freelanced for a rinky-dinky paper back in college. Went to cover a high school football game. Turned in the story. Guy in charge was a gigantic cock.

    Left when I was done writing. Never talked to him again.
  8. da man

    da man Well-Known Member

    For what? In most states, they can fire you for no reason whatsoever and certainly in any manner they choose.

    And just so you feel better that it's not just this industry, Bill Bidwill has informed St. Louis/Phoenix/Arzona Cardinals coaches that they have been fired by simply changing the locks. If they arrive for work and their key no longer works, it means they're gone.
  9. BarbersGmen

    BarbersGmen Member

    This is going to sound stupid but as a 25 year old employed with my second paper in six years, what exactly are the right questions to ask before taking a job?
  10. pallister

    pallister Guest

    Did they try to make you learn page design?
  11. how 'bout shortest stint not at a paper?

    we had a veteran desk guy at my first paper who just had enough of the SE and decided to leave the business. he got himself a job working at the post office, we had a huge party for him, got him a briefcase and some other gifts, exchanged emotional good-byes, and off he went.

    he despised it so much he quit after one day and was back at work at our place by Friday. he returned the briefcase and took us all out for drinks
  12. outofplace

    outofplace Well-Known Member

    I lasted 4 months at my first job, part-time at a relatively small suburban. They didn't tell me this coming in, but I was basically an agate clerk, writing one story a week if I was lucky. The editor was the most classless, unprofessional jackass I've met in this business and one of the greatest regrets of my career is not knocking him on his ass (long story that isn't my business to tell, but his behavior toward a co-worker who was a friend of mine was that out of line.)

    I left for another local suburban not far away, where the SE knew my former boss. After a couple of weeks, he said, "(blank) didn't teach you anything, did he?"

    All I got from that first job was an appreciation for professionalism because I saw what happens in its absence.
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