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What should I have done?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by huntsie, Jul 12, 2008.

  1. huntsie

    huntsie Active Member

    We have two guys on vacation out of a staff of three and a stringer we use extensively.
    The major provincial golf tournament of the summer is going on. With two guys gone, I'm left on the desk and the stringer does the golf. He files a story that, in my judgement, misses the crux of the story completely.
    Briefly, there are two co-leaders from out of province at the halfway point of the tournament. The first round leader, a kid from our circulation area, shot a 65 on day one, but a 75 on day two to fall to third place. I rewrote the lead to reflect that -- taking 45 minutes out of a busy night to do so actually, since I had eight pages to lay out.
    So I didn't have time to consult with the writer or send it back to him to do again. Got a note from him this morning pissed at the rewrite and indicating that we should tell the boss he'll never do golf again.
    Should I have left his story alone but for minor edits? Sent it back to him to rewrite and complicated a crazy night? Did what I did? Or something else?
    Honestly, this guy and I are pretty good friends and he's a valuable member of our department. I hate to be at odds with him. How would you handle this?
     
  2. slappy4428

    slappy4428 Active Member

    You're in the slot, it's your call.
    The local kid is your angle -- especially since he was still in the lead to start the day.
    He overreacted, however, not having seen the rewrite, don't know if you tweaked, rewrote or butchered...
     
  3. huntsie

    huntsie Active Member

    I'd call it a heavy rewrite and I think he'd agree. It wasn't butchered, for sure.
     
  4. BujuBanton

    BujuBanton Member

    You should just tell him welcome to the business, every writer has their stuff changed from time to time. Then send him to every golf event in the area.
     
  5. Some Guy

    Some Guy Active Member

    If it was one of your regular writers, I would say you should never, ever fuck with a lede without consulting the writer.

    Since it was a stringer, I say fuck 'em.
     
  6. hwkcrz1

    hwkcrz1 Member

    You had every right to change that story. Stringers have no right to treat you like that.
     
  7. BillyT

    BillyT Active Member

    No more golf?

    How about no more assignments?

    All copy is raw copy.

    Unless you added a mistake, and even then, he missed the story.
     
  8. greenlantern

    greenlantern Guest

    I've changed ledes before as the slot guy. Guess what. I'll do it again. If the lede completely misses the mark or is a complete clusterfuck, I'm making changes. Don't like it? Tough nuts. And since when does a stringer get to say what he will and won't cover? Most people's bosses would be finding a new stringer. Like Buju said, "Welcome to the business."
     
  9. Pete Incaviglia

    Pete Incaviglia Active Member

    Agreed, he missed the angle completely and the lede needed to be changed. However, you should have sent an email at the very least at the time you rewrote the lede. Should have called him if you could have. Just out of courtesy, not to bitch. Then, the next day, you explain the changes and discuss focusing on local angles, etc.

    "Bob. I'm changing your lede. We'll discuss why in the morning."

    It's in our union contract that anything and everything in a story can be changed or reworked or cut — EXCEPT any lede. And, if the lede is changed, the reporter can pull his/her byline off it he/she wants.
     
  10. fishwrapper

    fishwrapper Active Member

    Sorry to be contrarian, but...
    The stringer deserved a phone call. I don't care that the changes were made, or a rewrite took place.
    But, as long as it is his/her byline at the top of the story, a call should be made.
     
  11. zebracoy

    zebracoy Guest

    Agreed.

    I also think that maybe it wasn't a good idea to schedule two of your three guys out on vacation the same week, regardless of how little is going on.
     
  12. Jersey_Guy

    Jersey_Guy Active Member

    At my place, stringer copy seems to be regarded as completely changeable without a phone call. OTOH, your paper seems to have a closer relationship with this stringer, and need for his services, than most.

    I'd smooth it over, but make it clear to him that this was you job - to make sure the best coverage gets in the paper - and given the deadline, you didn't have time to chat about it.
     
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