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Youth sports rant

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Smallpotatoes, Oct 7, 2007.

  1. Smallpotatoes

    Smallpotatoes Well-Known Member

    I had two e-mails today about three Pop Warner articles that didn't make it into the paper. One said they were "very disappointed."
    A quick glance at my inbox, deleted items folder and sent items folder (youth copy is always sent to typesetters for cleanup and formatting) showed that I never received the pieces in question. Somehow I don't think they'll believe me when I say that.
    1). I'm so sick of hearing "I'm very disappointed" from readers. I've heard it so often, one might think I'm not doing my job correctly. Life is full of disappointments, get over it.
    2). While I've taken some steps to get some youth organizations to consolidate their articles and send them to me from one person, most groups prefer to leave it up to the individual teams to send me stuff directly. Many of these articles look alike and I have a hard time telling one from another. With one youth soccer league, I've started keeping a handwritten log of all incoming e-mails from that group, then checking it against what makes it into the paper. It's kind of ridiculous that I should have to do it, but I guess it's my responsibility to know what goes in the paper.
    3). One of the complaing e-mails said that the articles should be published in their entirety, never mind that you have an 8-year-old football story that is almost as long as the high school varsity's story and in some cases longer (I know for these volunteer parent writers, part of the fun is making it sound like their kids are as heroic as their favorite NFL players, but is a full report of every series, starting with the coin toss really necessary?).
    4). These people seem to act like their copy was a paid advertisement and they have every right to expect it makes it in the paper, as is.
    5). I know this would never fly at my shop, but is there anything wrong with telling these people maybe their article will get in, maybe it won't. I can't make any guarantees and if it doesn't make it into the paper, I may not even know why it wasn't published.
    6). I'm getting a sense that checklists are becoming a big part of my job, and that it's more important to fit all the youth sports in the paper than to do high-quality writing and layout myself.
  2. Cadet

    Cadet Guest

    Formulate a policy, get it approved by your supervisors, print that policy as often as you can, and then you have a hard-and-fast policy to point to when you get these requests. Anything that strays from the policy (i.e. running submissions in their entirety) can be taken up with the advertising department.

    Any argument you get into with a parent, your defense is "That's the policy" instead of "That's my decision." It takes the heat off you and makes it clear (well, clear as mud) for them.
  3. farmerjerome

    farmerjerome Active Member

    It's too late to do anything about it this season.

    Next year, send a form out to all the league head guys.

    Make sure the form includes a place for the final score and score by quarter. Split the middle of the page with a spot for Team A and Team B (touchdowns, yardage, tackles, etc.).

    At the bottom leave a SMALL space for any game high lights. Fuck 'em if they write on the back.

    Make sure you have a spot at the top for whomever submitted the write-up AND THEIR PHONE NUMBER.

    Explain to the league/age group directors that you will only run stories submitted in this format -- including the name and phone number. E-mail results should also follow this format.

    Any decent clerk can get an inch or two out of this gibberish. And that's all it deserves.
  4. rtse11

    rtse11 Member

    AND you should give a clear and definite deadline for reporting the results - say, 24 hours from the day of the game.
  5. I'm thinking it might be a good idea to use a policy, which you run in a box on the page, that is similar to letters to the editor. 1. Keep it to xxx words. 2. The copy will be subject to editing to fit the newspaper's standards (which means you can rewrite it). 3. Deadline is x, no later.
  6. imjustagirl2

    imjustagirl2 New Member

    Yeah, it kind of is.

    I agree. A box with guidelines covers your ass, allows you to cover your own ass, etc.
  7. Smallpotatoes

    Smallpotatoes Well-Known Member

    I do run such a box every week, but it seems like readers tend to rely more on word-of-mouth for that information and the information tends to get garbled as it gets passed down through the grapevine.
    Every week, I get questions about it and often they say something like "I heard the deadline is [some other time than the real deadline]."
    I guess some people need to hear it directly from you to believe it.
  8. Del_B_Vista

    Del_B_Vista Active Member

    If they don't bother to read the guidelines that are published every week, how the hell do they know what's in the paper to be pissed off about? Ask 'em that one.
  9. I like the idea of publishing hard and fast guidelines. I probably need to start doing that at my shop as well... As for
    THis is great advice ...

    I often feel the same way about my "checklists" - by the time I get in my youth sports "trophy" pics, sports briefs, updated standings, etc. there isn't much room for actual stories, features, photos, the coverage that you feel like folks might actually want to read...
  10. Mystery_Meat

    Mystery_Meat Guest

    Space-available basis. I say this, write this, fax this, print this, dream this. Photos sent to me run on a space-available basis. Writeups run on a space-available basis. I will do my best to get it in and in a timely fashion, sir/ma'am, but it all depends on space (particularly with photos, since at my shop they have to run three columns wide in order to recognize anyone's faces). I make it clear that I can't guarantee a publication date. Basically you're doing them a public service, giving their kids a little free publicity and their picture in the paper. If it was really that big a deal, you'd have been there yourself.

    But Cadet is spot on with making sure you formulate your policy with the higher-ups first. I was lucky in that I had hands-off supervisors, so I created my own policy and stuck to it. Consistency is key, and I would hold photos for up to a month if I didn't have the proper hole for it -- everything gets a three-column horizontal standalone photo box, and everything runs in black and white because I'm not about to open the bias box if I run someone's photo in color or smaller than so-and-so's.

    If it's at the point where you're running so much submitted stuff that timely news isn't getting reported, then you have to talk with your supervisors about a) more space or b) more leeway in holding team photos. Timeliness isn't a factor; those people just want to see their kids' faces in the paper.

    And if they balk, feel free to use this response, which I am thankful never to have needed: "Hey, you're paying me to report sports. If you want to pay me to do less writing, that's fine by me." There have been weeks where I could easily have filled a section without doing anything other than laying it out, but I could never do that.

    Get your supervisors to understand the big picture, the whole of your readership instead of the squeaky wheels. If they don't, then play the game by their rules on the clock while looking for a new team off the clock.
  11. JBHawkEye

    JBHawkEye Active Member

    I run a box once a week saying what our policies are, and you still get people who want you to do it their way.

    You run a box saying "WE DO NOT PUBLISH GROUP OR TEAM PHOTOS." (And yes, it's in ALL CAPS). Yet, about once a week, a team photo is e-mailed or brought in. "Are you sure you can't make an exception this one time?"

    You run a box saying you'll run a brief announcing an upcoming camp or tournament ONCE (and yes, ONCE is in ALL CAPS) and then the information goes in the weekly calendar that runs on Sunday. Then someone e-mails you and says, "Can you run this as many times as possible, so we can get the information out?"

    You run a box saying how to turn in information for youth tournaments, saying, We reserve the right to edit the information. Then some parent calls up bitching because you didn't run it word-for-word.

    I have learned when it comes to the youth sports crowd, they think the world revolves around them. You just stick to your policies.
  12. Cadet

    Cadet Guest

    Agreed, JBH. The key is having the policy to deflect the heat, that way it's not "your" decision and parents can't think you have a personal grudge. They will anyway, but at least you're covered.
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