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Two-man staff cut to one, thoughts

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by sshap36, May 21, 2012.

  1. sshap36

    sshap36 Member

    I'm the sports editor of a daily in Texas, today the publisher let my sports writer go due to budget cuts.

    For now, this shouldn't be too much of an issue during the slower summer months. But, the school season (football in particularly) is going to be difficult to manage.

    Any thoughts, advice or insight on the best way to manage this? I cover seven high schools and a Division III college in town.

  2. Tom Petty

    Tom Petty New Member

    honestly ... i'd look for work elsewhere.
  3. skm007

    skm007 New Member

    Find yourself some good stringers.
  4. 2underpar

    2underpar Active Member

    do you have layout responsibilities?
  5. LongTimeListener

    LongTimeListener Well-Known Member

    That isn't a staff. That's a guy.
  6. sshap36

    sshap36 Member

    While looking for another job is an option, I'm trying to figure out how to deal my with my current job first.

    Yes, I do have layout responsibilities. But that may change with the changes on staff.
  7. sprtswrtr10

    sprtswrtr10 Member

    A long time ago, I was a one man staff.
    I got help, though, and it wasn't too bad.
    The ME was a former sports guy. We made it work.

    Then I was part of a two-man staff at a mid-size daily, and even with two stringers that worked a lot, we were paid for 45 hours and worked 60 to 70. I was young, didn't know the shortcuts I know now, but far more than that, the culture was crushing. We thought the world would end if we didn't get a baseball game between two area teams covered, or if we failed to rewrite a prep tennis tournament that there would be hell to pay.

    We killed ourselves.
    It made my marriage toxic
    (even though my divorce was the best thing that ever happened to me)
    I was an idiot.

    So, my advice is to develop some shortcuts.
    (present a situation and people on this board will help; they've been there)
    See what you can fake; what you can rewrite; how you can do not as much less with less.

    But, and this is my big advice, figure out what you can do and what you can't do and do what you can and not what you can't. You've been placed in this position. Make the best of it, but don't do the impossible. Your older self will hate you for it.

    All this from a CNHIer who doesn't take his recession days, but still gets docked for them.
    That's a problem when you're salaried.
    I think I'm more productive than anybody at my paper and I will never be accused of not working hard.
    But I've learned supreme efficiency over time.
    I do not kill myself like I used to.
    You should never do it.

    Good luck
  8. Tom Petty

    Tom Petty New Member

  9. apeman33

    apeman33 Well-Known Member

    First thing tomorrow morning, ask them how much of their coverage area they're planning to drop so you can cut the number of high schools you cover. Because I'm assuming they laid off other staff and there's no way the news side is going to be able to continue to cover as much.

    Do NOT attempt to continue to do the same workload by yourself. You'll be burned out before the end of the year.
  10. dirtybird

    dirtybird Well-Known Member

    Sounds like some Bullshit, and when you don't work so much it violates every labor law in the book, someone will accuse you of laziness. [/Crossthread]
  11. Gomer

    Gomer Active Member


    Been there, two years ago my three-man staff was cut to two. No stringers, no budget for columns, now we even shoot some photos and video along with our layout.

    Best thing you can do is explain the situation to every source you deal with and hope they respect the fact that your own sanity has to come first. Do the best you can but count your hours at first and make sure you're not overextending yourself. It'll take time to find out how to do this new job, but you can get there.

    And make no mistake, it is a different job. Don't compare anything to what you did before.
  12. Beef03

    Beef03 Active Member

    sshap36 You have my sympathies. I went from a three-man department at my last paper to a one-man department at my current daily of similar size -- I was talking to a former photographer last week and not too long ago it was a three man department with two part timers. I accepted on the basis that it was a step up in title, I would be writing more and I was promised help. The first two have certainly been true. Help has been extremely minimal. I have no budget to work with and currently no stringers. At the same time I am in the position of having to rebuild the section as they went without a sports department for almost two full years after the last SE died on the job. They tried to justify not having to hire a new one to replace him by doing some study on readership, in the process they pissed off the entire sports community. So turning down things to cover is not something I can do a whole lot of.

    This is what a recommend.

    Get used to the idea that coverage is not going to be what it used to be. It sounds simple, but this is something I struggle with. I have too much pride in my work and section to settle for something less than what I think the section should be. It sucks. It is soul sucking. But it is reality.

    Rely heavily on those sources you have developed good relationships with over the last however many years you've been there. Make sure they know the situation. This means cutting back on game coverage, relying far more on briefs and call-ins.

    Move to more feature based coverage if you haven't already -- one feature a day and whatever breaks or short game coverage after that. Pace yourself though. If you have a one-man section, it will take you longer to work through the teams in the area for features than when there were two of you.

    Also keep an eye on your news hole. Mine is all over the place. There is no consistent size. This becomes problematic for me because I tend to work my ass off only to find I don't have space to fit everything in, it's an on going battle because four or five days a week I rely on a slop page from classifieds for what becomes my second or third page of copy (did I mention they went two years without a sports department? ongoing battle to rebuild it not just in the community, but its respect among non-sports people in the paper as well). Sometimes I have a full page of slop, sometimes I have nothing and then am dealing with an add(s) on my section front. I normally do not find out until about 6 p.m. what I have. It sucks horribly. So frustrating. Sounds elementary but it sneaks up on you. It can also save you a lot of frustration and energy if this is organized properly. Nothing at my paper is.

    The key is to keep your expectations and that of your readership realistic. Prioritize like hell. If you have stringers, use and abuse them. When you have days off, take them. Do not come back in for anything short of an emergency or biggest story of the year scenario. If that means missing a game, tough shit.

    Fight for every little thing you can from your paper in terms of resources. If you can off load layout, do it, fight hard for it. If you can bring in a stringer or J-school student to take calls on Friday nights during football season, do it. Write him a glowing letter of recommendation or throw him a couple bucks if you can/need to. Sell it as good work experience.

    Get your clippings together. Refresh the resume. Don't quit until you have something lined up, but don't let the job kill you. The grass IS greener, even if it is a sideways move to a similar size paper, as long as you're not going solo.

    Good luck is all I can say.
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