Facing the challenges of the job Dec. 23, 2009
Judy Connelly, now the sports editor at the Middletown (N.Y.) Times-Herald, had been the Mid-Atlantic region chair while sports editor at the Scranton Times and Tribune. The cutbacks and downsizing effect on such a small paper have been devastating, she said.
Four years ago, she left news to become sports editor. She had 14 people in her department and space in the paper was incredible. When she recently left to go to Middletown, she had seven people, including herself. “Everybody had to double- and triple-up,” she said. “And then we added the Internet stuff.”
Scranton started a major high school initiative, Scranton 570, which brought a bulk of the high school sports online. “It took us five months inputting data,” she said. “And every time someone decided to leave, we had a hiring freeze.”
For the major-market, big-sized newspapers, the effect is different. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette AME/Sports and former APSE president Jerry Micco said you have to reinvent yourself every year. The paper still covers the Pirates, Steelers, Penn State and Pitt but has cut back on other things. “If you are not covering the core, you are not doing what you need,” he said. “But you can’t do everything the way we were taught.”
Pittsburgh has a pay site and a free site online. The pay site has special content added, especially Steelers.
Micco has decided to focus on content. The Post-Gazette now has a universal copy desk set-up. “I don’t want the desk anymore,” Micco said. “I want to concentrate on content.”
“We have to rest, rethink, refocus.”
Matt Vita, deputy AME/sports at the Washington Post said he’s had to “limit what to ask of reporters because we keep adding layers and layers of responsibility.”
Beat reporters have to do video and blog. Topic editors are also blogging to relieve some of the pressure. “Copy editors can’t just wait for the copy to come in anymore,” he said “We have to broaden the field, wear two hats. We edit and report.”
The Post has given up covering the Ravens and Orioles after working out a deal with the Baltimore Sun.
Tom Bergeron, former sports editor at the Newark Star-Ledger who now works at Yahoo Sports, said the New Jersey paper gave up daily game coverage of the Mets and Yankees, working a deal with the New York Daily News partly because all of the baseball beat writers took buyouts. Another problem in having a daily beat reporter was the need for a backup, which further diminished the staff. It wasn’t worth it, he said.
The Ledger instead hired four people: a Mets blogger, a Yankees blogger and two local enterprise reporters, who have had nine A1 stories on high school sports.
One of the copy editors was converted into an online “Continuous News Desk” person adjusting the online content as it happened both assigning and editing as necessary. At first, taking a copy editor out of the mix was met with resistance, Bergeron said. “But now it is accepted."
The key word is repurposing who you have.