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Why I'm starting to hate a job I loved

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by hankschu, May 15, 2008.

  1. hankschu

    hankschu Member

    Ladies and gents, depression is setting in, and not for the usual reasons, i.e., the dying industry, cost-cutting executives, etc..., although all that depresses me, too.

    I have been very fortunate to cover a professional beat in a sport I love for most of the last 20 years, for three different metros. I know there are many people on this board who would kill for a job like mine, or just have a job in these tough times. I understand that and do not mean to sound flippant or petty in questioning my place in a very envious position. I do not take anything for granted and feel blessed to have the life I've lived.

    Lately, though, I have become depressed by the focus of newspapers, mine included, toward people reading on the Internet. Obviously, we are targeting younger readers who get most of their news online, so we can help propagate our industry. But the bile and venom coming from many of these people, in the comments underneath the stories and the e-mails I receive, make me wonder why I want to write for these people.

    I'm not talking about comments directed toward me. I have a thick skin. I cover a team that is not very good right now. Hasn't been for the last few years. The team deserves criticism for some of its decisions, and my paper and I have not been shy about dishing it out. But the language and invective directed toward this team from the readers is so distressing. The team officials and players cannot be faulted for their effort and desire to win. They are basically good people who work hard but have not been successful at their jobs lately. Whatever scorn they deserve should not be as vile as it is from the people I am now supposed to be writing for.

    My paper still sells more than 350,000 papers a day (or so it says), so I know I'm not writing exclusively for these anonymous Internet monsters. I just wonder, has anyone else had these feelings?

    I always thought I'd be a lifer in this job. Now I'm not so sure.

    Thanks for your thoughts.
  2. Tom Petty

    Tom Petty Guest

    the hounds have been released for some time, hank.
  3. DanOregon

    DanOregon Well-Known Member

    If it helps at all, realize that the folks dropping comments probably wouldn't say these things to your face and are probably trying to be witty or just blow off some steam. You are a hell of a writer and have done a great job for decades covering your beat. Never mind people complaining or bitching about your work or the team you cover. You've got to understand, sports is a release. They give us a chance to really care about something that doesn't matter at all. (See the joy in New Orleans over the Hornets? Kind of like soap operas or Hollywood tramps. Times are tough all over, gas prices, the economy, general national insecurity. People are freaking out. If they are able to vent a little about the local nine to take their mind off their own situation, view what you're doing as a public service. Imagine the kind of crappy day it must have taken to motivate those posts. Dude is probably late on his child support, his boss ripped him a knew one and he might have gotten a parking ticket that is going to cut into his beer budget. The fact that you still care enough to post what you did says a lot. Hope it helps.
  4. Babs

    Babs Member

    Typically people only comment when they have something to complain about. If people are relatively happy, they just leave well enough alone. So comments are always going to skew negative.

    I would try to write for the guy who isn't commenting because he's content.
  5. captzulu

    captzulu Member

    Not to sound mean, but it seems like idiotic online complaints -- not even about your work but about the team you cover -- should be among the last things that would make a journalist depressed about his/her job, especially in the face of all the other stuff going on in the biz. I'll echo what the previous posters said in that many of those people 1). are blowing off steam, and 2). won't say those things if they were face-to-face with you or the team. If that's the worst thing about your job, then you can take comfort in knowing that you have it pretty good (which, to your credit, you already acknowledged).

    And as for being depressed about writing for idiots online, consider this: If the Internet did not exist/before the Internet existed, would those idiots just not read about the team? Chances are, they were/would most likely be reading your story in print, so they've always been part of the readership you've been writing for, and they were probably spewing their venom in private or to friends or on radio call-in shows. You just didn't know they were part of your audience because you didn't hear from them as much.
  6. ondeadline

    ondeadline Active Member

    Sounds like some of the some of the typical fanboy looser comments on the S&N board here. Seriously.

    As to people commenting on your paper's Web site, you have to consider that these people are a very small percentage of the people who read your stuff.
  7. Walter Burns

    Walter Burns Member

    My situation is not like yours except in the respect that I, too, get my fair share of anonymous sniping comments online.
    I try to take them (and a few are actually pretty witty, but most are just fat jokes and general bitching) as the one of the unfortunate but minor side effects of having an important job, or at least one that many people think is important.
    As Reggie Jackson said, "Fans don't boo nobodies."
  8. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    I know it can be hard, but message board feedback is part of the landscape these days, 99 percent of the posters would be extremely contrite and embarrassed if you ever communicated with them personally, and it's really just a more public extension of what people have been doing sitting in their easy chairs or on a barstool forever.

    There's no simple answer, because you can't help how you feel, but basically, it's just something that has to be dealt with these days.
  9. Elliotte Friedman

    Elliotte Friedman Moderator Staff Member


    I started in sports radio -- please don't hate me for it -- and remember the first couple of times a caller either ripped me directly or on another show. I felt like jumping from the CN Tower's observation deck.

    Eventually, I was better off for it. It gave me a thicker skin, taught me how to separate honest criticism from stupidity. You learn to ignore the idiots, and relish conversation with people who want to engage in legitimate debate. There have been a few times over the years I've come up with story ideas from those comments/emails.

    It seems hard, because some of them are so moronic, but you have to kind of learn to embrace it. When I get around to doing my blog -- not as often as I should -- I always read them. One tip I can give you (if you haven't done so already) is create an online mailbag for yourself. Invite readers to submit comments/questions and tell them: Once a week, I will pick the best 3/5/10/50,000 to be answered.

    You will be surprised at the quality of the questions. Readers really enjoy the opportunity to interact. And, it will improve your image of those who read your work.
  10. hankschu

    hankschu Member

    I thank you for your responses, although I think some of you missed the point of my original post. I wasn't upset because people were ripping me. I've been around long enough to get ripped in letters composed by manual typewriters. I could not care less what readers think of me as long as I cover my beat the right way.

    My issue was the stupidity, meanness and even illiteracy of the people I now am supposed to target -- the online readers, or at least those who are not communicating with me via e-mail or comments under the story, and cannot spell at a third-grade level as they rip me and the team I cover a new one.

    Common sense should tell me that these folks are the minority of online readers. I hope that's true.
  11. fremont

    fremont Member

    If I had my way there would be none of this anyone-come-log-in-and-comment-with-whatever-the-hell-you-want on any newspaper websites. I've seen some stuff that is absolutely libelous, slanderous and has no place on any website for a paper that even purports itself to be respectable. What it is, is a cheap way to drive up hit counts. People participate solely to smear their shit all over the comment sections, then keep coming back to see what the responses were. And who in the hell is getting paid to monitor these?

    If the parents and the community think their school's team sucks, they need to just not go to the damn game.
  12. SockPuppet

    SockPuppet Active Member

    HankSchu and Fremont are pointing out the same things that Buzz Bissinger pointed out in his famous (infamous) "debate" with Will Leitch.
    Newspapers are so desperate for web site hits that they're allowing the kind of stuff that they would NEVER allow in print.
    Do papers accept letters to the editor that are unsigned or not vetted (at least checking a phone book to see if the person exists)? Would they allow letters containing profanity, bad grammar, misspelling, personal attacks?
    It seems that papers are prostituting themselves to get web site hits.
    What HankSchu appears to be saying that he bemoans the lack of civility and decency on his paper's web site. Good for him.
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