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Sports deskers with no sportswriting experience?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by shotglass, Sep 10, 2008.

  1. shotglass

    shotglass Guest

    Drip and I were debating this on another thread, and he contends that there are quite a few sports desk people out there who never aspired to be anything else.

    He may be right. But that really surprised me. Plus, I'm not so sure, if I'm an SE, that I want a desker who hasn't lived through what sportswriters deal with, unless they REALLY have the other parts of the job wired.

  2. beardpuller

    beardpuller Active Member

    It's always better to have done both -- for writers and for editors.
    Essential? No. Do you think a writer can do his job without knowing what desk people go through?
  3. hankschu

    hankschu Member

    I have worked with some wonderful copy editors who never aspired to write. They like (or liked) the business, some even like the hours. Mostly these were family-first folks who could never think of having a beat that took them away from home.

    As for the other part of your thread: As someone with significant experience on the desk and as a writer, I think it would be a great idea if every desker could spend one week with a beat writer and every beat writer one week on the desk, just to see how the other side works. The writer would learn the frustration that deskers have when sloppy stories are filed late, writers call 2 minutes before deadline to make insignificant fixes etc... and deskers would learn that just because the game ends at 10:15 it doesn't mean you get to talk to the star of the game at 10:16 so you can file a one-and-done at 10:30; or how the writer has to deal with the consequences of an insulting, overblown headline.

    If I ever become a sports editor, I will make this happen.
  4. BTExpress

    BTExpress Well-Known Member

    I may be close to that description . . . but I don't think it's possible to have no sportswriting experience, since most people enter this business as stringers and part-timers covering preps and whatnot. As a 15-year-old you could say I aspired to be covering the Phillies for the Inquirer.

    That being said, after I spent my high school and college years writing part-time for the local papers, it dawned on me that I was more suited to putting out the paper (layout/editing) than going out and reporting. Even though I liked to write, I knew my lack of aggressive personality (and mild social anxiety disorder) would be hurdles to ever climbing past a certain point.

    And there is one other thing I fortunately discovered. SEs receive 1 application for desk work for every 100 they receive from writers. That only affirmed my decision to be a desker, which enabled me to work at a 200,000-plus circulation daily only 30 months out of college. And the stable hours and regular work schedule only affirmed it further.

    As far is whether working both jobs helps, I see an obvious benefit to writers having worked the desk (importance of deadlines, importance of writing to fit). Not sure how having been a writer really helps a desker, however (beyond having sympathy for the poor writer when a game goes into OT).
  5. TheMethod

    TheMethod Member

    Wait, people still work the desk?
  6. imjustagirl

    imjustagirl Active Member

    Wait, there are papers where people don't have to do both?
  7. awriter

    awriter Active Member

    Don't underestimate the value of that sympathy. It helps. That said, I've worked with excellent editors who had little or no experience covering a beat.
  8. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    I can't think of any desker I've ever worked with who didn't have some writing experience (even if, for a few of the oldsters, they last wrote 30 years ago.) Like y'all said, most of us started as stringers if not full-time writers before moving over to the desk.

    And I agree with the above, about writers needing experience on the desk and deskers having to spend time writing. The perspective you gain from doing both is invaluable -- I know my years as a reporter (and the writing I still do today) has made me better on the desk, and my time on the desk has definitely made me a better writer.

    It's a huge benefit, in my mind, and the people in this business I've met without experience on both sides have done nothing to convince me otherwise.
  9. captzulu

    captzulu Member

    I've never written full-time, but spent four years in college stringing a ton of preps, college and minor pro stuff for the paper where I eventually became a designer/copy editor, and did some writing even after I became a full-time desker. I found midway through college that I enjoyed design more than I would enjoy beat writing, and about 6 months into my full-time newspaper career, I decided that I would much rather be a full-time designer/copy editor than a full-time writer. So no, I never really aspired to be a writer, though it certainly wasn't for a lack of know-how and I do enjoy writing (that's half of what I do now), just not as much as I enjoy design.

    Those years of writing I had were extremely valuable for my work as a desker. It really helped me communicate better with the writers in part because it gave me some credibility since they knew that I understood some of the challenges they faced. It also helped me a ton when I was planning out new features/pages/special sections because I had a better idea of how to incorporate those things into our writers' workflow without adding too much work for them. There were also times when I wrote a lot of the stuff for some of the packages I put together. But I have also worked with a few deskers who have not had any significant writing experience, especially at papers where the positions get more specialized. In those cases, they often needed to be babysat through the "word" part of their job by an editor.
  10. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    I'd almost rather have someone whose never worked as a writer (other than college) working the desk instead of someone working the desk who is a frustrated writer.

    Ideally, you have someone who has been both a frustrated writer and a frustrated desker. That's me.
  11. Drip

    Drip Active Member

    Shot, I know a few who have never written a story. And they have no desire to write either. Three of them are at pretty big papers and no, I will not mention who they are because I don't think its beneficial.
    Believe it or not, there are some people, for some reason, who believe like BT said, who feel they are more equipped for being inside.
    The individuals I know are very good at what they do so I can't knock their career decision. I think you see it happening more on news side than you do in sports.
  12. shotglass

    shotglass Guest

    I do think you see it more on news side, Drip. At least I have.

    And Ace makes a good point. There's nothing more disruptive to a department than a desker who doesn't want to be there, who would rather be writing.
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