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Web issues

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by mrbigles01, May 4, 2011.

  1. mrbigles01

    mrbigles01 Member

    I am having an issue that I can't seem to find a way around and wanted to bounce it off the sometime sagacious members of the SJ community.

    I graduated from J school a little over a year ago, and thanks to some diligence on my part and a series of good internships while I was a student I was hired as the Sports Editor of a small weekly paper upon graduation. I have a "staff," of two people who write columns and I do all of the other writing. The content is about 90% preps with the occasional hunting, fishing, 5k race, whatever.

    The issue here is our website. We barely use it and it is embarrassing. The Editor of the paper doesn't like to post things on the site until after they have run in the paper so that we don't "hurt our newsstand sales." That argument is laughable, we have a readership of 4k and they are subscribers for the most part, very few people are ever in town and want to just pick up the paper. Either you get the thing or you don't.

    The web site is also behind a pay wall, only subscribers have access to the site, such as it is. Our site can't do audio or video and all we have is tiny photos, it is truly awful.

    I intended to spend about a year out here to gain experience and then try to move on to something that is a bit higher up the chain (a daily, ideally with at least some college coverage if not the pros). I have had great success getting a series of interviews, but I have been rejected from each job for a "lack of web experience."

    My question is this, how do I make myself more attractive to potential employers if I can't get any "web experience," at the paper I am currently at? I would hate to think that this year was entirely wasted, but from the responses I am getting from most interviews I need to be more web savvy, something that will never happen here.

    Do I need to go back to square one and find another "first job," at a new place? I have tried to advocate improving our site only to be met with hostility and confusion as to why I would want to use the web more when "we have a perfectly good print edition."

    I feel like I am stuck between a rock and a hard place, I can't get out of here without more web knowledge and I can't get more web knowledge while I am here.

    Any thoughts?
  2. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    Is it the lack of web experience or daily deadline experience? What types of jobs are you applying for?

    Most editors want to see how you handle filing a quick story and updating it as needed. Do you know how to edit audio and video? If so, do something on the side and upload it to YouTube.

    Better yet, set up your own website using Wordpress or Squarespace.
  3. I hate to suggest spending your own cash, but maybe it wouldn't hurt to spend $150 on a Kodak or Flip cam and start doing some videos that go with your coverage to put on Youtube, as Stitch suggested.
  4. mrbigles01

    mrbigles01 Member

    I have the Flip already, I have used it in prior jobs and done some posting on the web. The fact that it is "independent," as opposed to being part of an "online newsroom," is the issue I am facing.

    My "internship," was two years as the high school hockey and lacrosse beat writer for a major city newspaper (300K circulation) so in that context I have what I would consider pretty decent experience on daily deadlines and with the web. I've done videos, live chats, blogging, the works, but since I was considered a co-op no one seems to take that experience very seriously, despite the fact that I did.

    I turned around gamers on a half hour or less from end of game to deadline on a regular basis. I also did a weekly notebook and some feature stuff on individual players and teams.

    The jobs I have been applying for are writing and editing jobs at various TV network and radio network websites as well as newspapers with good web presence. I think you'd be crazy to be in the business and not think the web is the future so I am anxious to get into something like that ASAP. I took the job I have now knowing that it wasn't a web heavy organization, but when I got a shot to write sports immediately out of college I jumped at it. Now I feel like the weekly deadlines and lack of a good website are an anchor in getting another job.

    Part of me thinks that I need to take a step back to take a step forward and try to get some sort of internship or entry level job at a better organization but that makes the year I have spent working in my current job seem like a complete waste of a year.
  5. dirtybird

    dirtybird Well-Known Member

    Wait, so people don't take your web-heavy experience at a top-15 newspaper seriously? That seems very odd.

    Perhaps you could put extra emphasis on those things in terms or Resume/Cover letter. Also, I don't think there would be that many entry level jobs that are "a step back" from a 4k weekly.

    That is a perplexing problem, but take heart in the fact that a great deal of the business makes no sense. Sometimes you apply for a while, and all of a sudden get offers from places much bigger than many that rejected you.
  6. flexmaster33

    flexmaster33 Well-Known Member

    Yes, it sounds like you've landed in a frustrating first gig...but stick with it, keep applying and something will work out when least expected. Sounds like your motivated, and that's half the battle any more. Good luck with it.

    In the meantime, maybe type up a concise game plan of how improved web coverage can enhance your print product without taking away readers. I don't really see the conflict since you have to subscribe to get access anyway???
  7. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    The OP needs to have a conversation with hiring editors on what skills he is lacking. if you are trying to go from a weekly to a 50k daily, that's a tough jump to make.
  8. TigerVols

    TigerVols Well-Known Member

    Wordpress.com or better still, .org, is your friend. Set up a blog about something you're knowledgable in and show your stuff.
  9. mrbigles01

    mrbigles01 Member

    Thanks for the tips, perhaps my problem is that I am expecting it to make sense. ;D
  10. TheHacker

    TheHacker Member

    You can't do anything to change the culture or the thinking about the web where you are now, though I understand the desire. In my first fulltime job I was in a place where I thought a lot of stuff needed to change, but wasn't in position to make it happen. It is a frustrating feeling.

    You may want to hesitate about putting up your own blog or YouTube content on local stuff that you're covering -- that's something your bosses are going to want to know about if you're doing it. If they give you the OK, then fine. If you do it without their knowledge and they find it, you may bring trouble on yourself. If there's a sympathetic ear, you may pitch the idea of a blog that can be linked to on the website that teases the full content in the paper/on the site. The fact that your site is behind a paywall suggests your bosses don't want you giving stuff away for free -- what a concept! -- so that limits you also.

    Keep applying and play up your experience at the big paper where you did your internship. Make sure you've got links to all that stuff when you apply. Make sure you have a reference from that paper who can vouch for your abilities. You are in a tough situation, with your current paper's website the way it is. And it's just plain hard out there right now. The last time I hired, I got resumes from more than 120 people. You probably do need to think in terms of "another first job," as you put it. With so many people applying for every job, the ones who already are in a place where they can show the web skills are going to have an advantage. But it does sound like you've got a good foundation from your internship.

    This is a good lesson for all the aspiring writers about to graduate from college: A job at a place that doesn't emphasize the web is a dead end.
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