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Universal Desk

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by TarHeelMan, Oct 29, 2014.

  1. TarHeelMan

    TarHeelMan Member

    Pros and cons of a universal desk...Go!
  2. LanceyHoward

    LanceyHoward Active Member

    Pros- It saves the publisher money

    Cons- Everything else but that is irrelevant as the pro trumps all other arguments.

    This is based upon no actual experience so I am just guessing.
  3. RecoveringJournalist

    RecoveringJournalist Well-Known Member

    We tried this over holidays at my first shop 15 years ago.

    Complete fucking disaster.

    One of the newsside copy editors was editing a Penn State gamer and it was sent to the sports copy chief with Nittany Lions changed to Nittany (Mountain) Lions.

    Our copy chief printed about 20 copies of that and tacked them to the door of all the managers.
  4. bevo

    bevo Member

    Pro: The copy editors on the universal desk still exist at all.
  5. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    At least the copy editor didn't exacerbate the situation.

    ... Nittany Lions changed to Nittany (Mountain) Lions (which are called Catamounts in Vermont and Panthers in North Carolina and Cougars in the still-kind-of-hot-in-her-40s female demographic).
  6. Bronco77

    Bronco77 Active Member

    Just for the sake of clarification, do you mean a "universal" desk that handles news, sports, features and everything else, or a "centralized" desk (likely to have actual sports copy editors) where multiple papers are designed and edited?

    My former shop went to a universal desk about 10 years ago (before finally going to a centralized desk in another city), and my favorite memory is of the news side copy editor who thought an MLB game story should be gender-neutral and changed "first baseman" to "first base person."
  7. RecoveringJournalist

    RecoveringJournalist Well-Known Member

    I think people would have been happier if she had admitted that she didn't understand what it was since she knew less than zero about sports.

    It's one thing when a writer is using sports jargon that a newsside desker might not know about, but something like that was a "you've got to be fucking kidding me" moment.

    One of the other problems was our night editor had given the newsside copy editors a sports style book which highlighted some of the things that were different from the norm and none of them read any of it and were quite pissy with the writers when we called in.
  8. SoloFlyer

    SoloFlyer Active Member

    Pro - Frees up your department staff to potentially do more writing and project work. In sports, that can enable you to have three people covering high schools, or local colleges, rather than just two per week. More content and less reliance on the wire is always a plus.

    Con - Design gets homogenized. I've found the most creative designers are often responsible for the sports front page and A1. The person doing A1 isn't usually there until deadline; A1 is set to go, unless something enormous happens between say 8 or 9 pm and print deadline. Sports, however, can often end up seeing its front page change later as almost every sporting event, even high school, happens in the afternoon and evening hours and the results can impact how you play a story.

    Unless you take your best designer out of the sports department, assign them to the universal desk, and request that they take care of the sports front page, you're going to get blander results.
  9. Bronco77

    Bronco77 Active Member

    I was a low-level news desk supervisor when my former shop went to the universal desk, a problem there was a few of the news copy editors still believed the "toy department" crap and thought editing sports copy was "beneath" them (this was a few years before mass layoffs began and whiners and complainers often were initial targets). The former sports copy desk folks generally pitched in willingly with news copy, and did a better job with it than the news people did with sports.
  10. TarHeelMan

    TarHeelMan Member

    Yes Bronco...one-stop editing and design location. And your example is hilarious, and pathetic on their part!
  11. RecoveringJournalist

    RecoveringJournalist Well-Known Member

    Our copy chief would keep score of the number of stories sent over by sports copy editors as opposed to those on newsside and our sports guys were reading more than twice the number of stories than newsside did. He would also keep score of the mistakes he caught by sports copy editors as opposed to newsside and sports would catch more mistakes than the news people.

    Most of the people I know who have worked the desk on sports and in news are stunned at how much easier it is than in sports because of the volume that comes in right on deadline.
  12. Mr. Sunshine

    Mr. Sunshine Well-Known Member

    I've spent two decades on every kind of desk imaginable. Mostly sports, but years of news, which is where I reside now.

    While there are plenty of news siders who couldn't write a sports headline to save their life, there are an equal amount of sports deskers who lack the overall news judgment to excel on the other side.

    Neither is easy.

    The pro to any kind of change is that the more things you can do in a newsroom, the better for your future employment.

    Nothing is more worthless than someone unwilling to learn new things. Regardless of what department they work in.
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