Tag Archives: local journalism

The Ol’ Sports Desk

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I sometimes have distressing dreams about having to go back to working for a newspaper. Oddly enough, one of the very worst aspects of that job never features in any of these dreams. Maybe my subconscious is afraid I’ll panic and dive out the window.

As managing editor of a large-circulation local weekly, I was editor of everything. That included… ugh!… local sports. Specifically, local youth sports. The Humbug Township Youth Athletic League. Sasquatch County Youth Soccer. Etc.

Every week, starting on Monday, my desk would get snowed under with youth sports results, mostly written up by persons who were, shall we say, not highly skilled in expressing themselves. Stuff like “He done good, I seen it.” All of this, and I do mean all of it, had to be rewritten. By me. And plugged into the paper every week.

And heaven help me if I missed a spot! Oops, those two pages stuck together, that’s three soccer games (great gloms, I hate soccer) that didn’t make it into the paper. That will work out to at least three very angry phone calls from moms whose kiddy’s hat trick didn’t get a headline, and, if I were especially unfortunate, a personal appearance by a parent–usually the mother, but not always–leaning over my desk and yelling at me for depriving Buster or Petunia of his or her moment of precocious fame.

Lesson: You don’t have to be playing a sport for sports to bring out the worst aspects of your personality. Ask any player who’s ever had a battery thrown at him from the stands.

A lot of these parents signed their kids up for various “Programs” year-round, sometimes more than one at a time. So there you are, ten or eleven years old, in some kind of organized sport every afternoon, every evening, twelve months a year. I thought it cruel and inhumane. But this way you could get your kid’s name into the paper maybe 50 times a year. What a scrapbook that’ll make! And a great resource for the child’s biographer.

Most of these leagues and programs didn’t let anyone in after a certain age: eventually you were too old to participate. Suddenly you were out of organized sports–out as in “cold turkey.”

Had I been older and wiser at the time, I would have sought out some of these kids who suddenly had to do without what was a major slice of their lives throughout their childhoods. I should have interviewed them. It would have made for a fascinating series of articles.

But it might’ve gotten me lynched, too.

The Best Reporters

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Allow me to indulge in a little nostalgia.

I was a newspaper editor, once upon a time. I was proud of it. But that was decades ago. Not much left to be proud of in journalism anymore.

Who were the best reporters, then?

Speaking as an editor covering local news–and believe me, it’s a lot more than tricky trays and flower shows–I’d have to say the very best reporter would be an ordinary-looking, inconspicuous woman, sixtyish, kids grown up and on their own, of more than ordinary intelligence but quiet rather than flashy. Every newspaper needs at least one reporter like that, or it might as well save itself the trouble and just go out of business. These women, the infantry of local journalism–no secret can be kept from them. They find out everything, sooner or later.

In second place I’d go for bright teenagers who follow directions but retain their enthusiasm for sniffing out the news. I wouldn’t trade one of them for half a dozen of those twaddlers on CNN. You’d be amazed what high-school kids can find out, if you turn ’em loose on a story.

Newspapers are on the brink of extinction, and it’s their own fault. Everybody wants to be Dan Rather, and that’s how you end up like Dan Rather–one scam too many, and you’re out on your tuchas.

I have no idea how we’re gonna replace local journalism. Maybe we’ll have to wait for it to be re-invented.



NYT Honcho: Almost All Newspapers Will Be Dead in 5 Years

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Clark Gable and Doris Day in “Teacher’s Pet”–never mind journalism school, watch this movie instead!

The New York Fake Nooze Times executive editor predicts virtually all local newspapers will be extinct in five years (https://www.fastcompany.com/90353613/nyts-dean-baquet-most-local-newspapers-will-die-in-5-years).

Predicting “the death of local news,” the editor said, “Their economic model is gone.” Newspapers generally survive by selling space to advertisers. Subscriptions are never more than a rather small piece of any newspaper’s income. But the advertising revenue, the editor said, “continues to plummet.”

And by and by, “I don’t know what the model is for covering the school boards in Newark, New Jersey…”

If you don’t know that, maybe you shouldn’t be an editor.

I was an editor. And a reporter. I know how to cover school boards. You have to cover them in such a way that people will read the reports; and then local advertisers, when they become convinced that the people who do business with them are reading your paper, will want to buy ad space in your paper.

You need reporters who are knowledgeable, honest, competent, and fair–ditto editors who fit that description. They need to produce news which people can trust–not just the readers, but the people who are making the local news: school boards, town councils, out-of-power politicians, the administrator who runs the sewage treatment plant. Sources won’t answer questions honestly, may not answer them at all, if they think the reporter will treat them unfairly. You’d be amazed what people will tell you, if they’re convinced you’re fair.

And getting the facts is never as easy as it looks. That’s why you need intelligent people, not just brain-dead left-wing ideologues, staffing your newspaper. Not numbskulls who learned all about Social Justice and Climbit Change in college.

I worked for a very successful local weekly newspaper.

And the one guy we got from a hoity-toity school of journalism couldn’t report worth a damn, and had to be let go. Give me sharp-as-tacks middle-aged women who live in the town they cover, and always know who to talk to. Give me nosy high school kids who will ask the questions I tell them to ask, and then ask more.

Give me these, and my local newspaper will not go extinct. It’ll report the news. And people will know it really is the news, and not just some cod-headed Social Justice Warrior spouting ignorance.

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