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Trolling for (good, free) ideas

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by HejiraHenry, Aug 7, 2010.

  1. HejiraHenry

    HejiraHenry Well-Known Member

    The Sporting News ad posted elsewhere includes a demand for "One great idea you’d propose we do in the magazine in October or November."

    Show of hands: How many folks have applied for jobs that included this or some similar requirement, submitted the idea and later saw that idea executed ... even though you didn't get the job?

    I have had that happen to me at least twice.
  2. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    It would be a douche move on their part, but that really wouldn't steam me as long as the job openings actually exist and presumably people would get those jobs on the basis of having better ideas, credentials and fit with their office culture than I offer.

    I've always enjoyed the process of doing a critique for a paper as part of the pre-interview process. I have to credit John Rawlings with teaching me how to do a good one when we talked about a job in San Jose in 1984 (he ultimately hired someone else, although I did get an interview even though he thought my critique was too skimpy). From that time on, I've felt I've gotten at least as much as I've given almost every time I've critiqued either a section or an entire newspaper. Often the process has stretched me in new ways that have made me a better editor and a smarter human.

    The only time I got really pissed was in the early 1990s when the executive editor of a paper, where I already had interviewed for the SE job about a year earlier (they stayed in-house), asked me to do another critique because the job was open again. We agreed on a due date, and a day before I was suposed to Fed-Ex it, the managing editor called to say they were blown away by another candidate (a former boss of mine) and they'd offered him the job, so don't bother sending the critique. I told them they at least should pay me for the 30 hours I'd wasted on it so far. Of course, they dd not see it that way. The publisher and executive editor are dead now. I don't know where the managing editor is, but I would not be terribly upset if he were right there with them.

    I thought about doing The Sporting News thing just mostly as a mental exercise, but I am busy now and I don't read them enough to have any grasp of what would constitute a "great idea" in their thinking. If I did decide to try it, I probably wouldn't be all that bugged if they used the idea. Conceptual brilliance is probably only one part of the decision; they'll want someone who is a good fit there in other ways, too. If they were to use my idea, it's not like they're stealing my car. I have no shortage of ideas and this would be more like they picked $20 out of my pocket. I'd think they were scuzzy and I'd let it go.
  3. apseloser

    apseloser Member

    As someone who knows a few people there well, including the executive editor, I can assure you they're not the idea-stealing types at all. IMO, they have a few of the very best idea people in our business.

    If I was searching for an editor or 2, especially when TSN's stated goal is to hire idea people, I'd certainly want to know how candidates think, how creative they are. This seems like a natural request to ask of applicants.

    It'd weed out sports editors who take credit for their assistants' good work, which I've run into a lot when it comes to submitting special sections with application packets.
  4. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    I've seen listings asking for as many as 10 story ideas, tailored directly to that market. Pretty shaky if you ask me. Get me to the interview stage and ask, that's different. But not in an initial packet.

    TSN's request doesn't bother me, since Jeff D'Alessio by all accounts seems to be a stand-up guy.
  5. HejiraHenry

    HejiraHenry Well-Known Member

    These are good points. I have no axe to grind with TSN, as I marvel that they still exist. The ad just put me in mind of that question, though.
  6. flexmaster33

    flexmaster33 Active Member

    I've applied to a couple jobs making that requirement and had a lot of respect for that process. It seemed a natural step to test what a candidate brings to the table, and I enjoyed the challenge of it.

    I have since added it as a part of our interview process. Easy to separate people when one walks in with a solid list of potential ideas to explore and another comes in and makes a list on the fly.

    One of our best story series of the spring came out of this process...getting an inside look at one of our local baseball teams through the course of their season.
  7. Baron Scicluna

    Baron Scicluna Well-Known Member

    Wasn't it JRC or CNHI that had a running contest with their employees that if they had an idea to generate $50 million bucks, they would give the employee a $1 million prize?

    Of course, the employees joked that if they had a $50 million idea, why would they share it with the company?
  8. Drip

    Drip Active Member

    There have been a couple of instances where I've seen my ideas "suddenly" go into print. It's a screwed up process and I don't like it.
    As for TSN, APSEloser is correct that there are quality people there. However, I don't put anything past anyone these days. I wouldn't be shocked to see a few of those ideas finding their way to the masses.
  9. zebracoy

    zebracoy Guest

    I had a freelancer contact me last year during football season with an idea for a story that I gave the green-light to. He went out, did the research, sent me a few notes, and then when I gave him a deadline, he never sent the story.

    Then I did the story.

    Fair? Not really. He did come up with the idea. But hey, send it in next time.
  10. HejiraHenry

    HejiraHenry Well-Known Member

    That's a different kind of issue. You do what you have to do in a case like that.
  11. slappy4428

    slappy4428 Active Member

    I'd call the publications and the editors out in public, but that's just me.
    Gene Banks always thought I was a vindictive prick.
  12. Drip

    Drip Active Member

    Word is you weren't vindictive.
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