Monday, June 18, 2007

A night on the sports desk

As you noted, there's certainly no lack of NHL news in the off-season anymore. But, if you do find yourself with spare time, I've been curious about what a 'sports desk staffer' is? I'm a bit ignorant on the newspaper industry and always curious what exactly a staffer does and what access it affords you that a typical fan/blogger doesn't have. Might make for an interesting post.
Fair enough.

Honestly, it's an intentionally vague description because as one of the youngest guys on the payroll, I'm more of a jack of all trades than anything. One night I'll be editing stories and doing page design; the next I could be manning the website. Once in a while, I get to write a story or two.

The Globe and Mail's sports department is made up of roughly 30 individuals, from the sports editor, Steve McAllister, down to, well, guys like me on the desk. The staff is split pretty evenly between reporters/columnists and those working from the Toronto newsroom.

Most days, I work from mid-afternoon through the evening, a time frame that leads up to the earlier deadlines. Others are on staff until into the wee hours. Since the newspaper is shipped across the entire country the next morning, it has several incarnations throughout the night, changing as game results and/or news come in.

Not all newspapers use the same system on the desk, but at The Globe, you generally tackle both copyediting and design duties (which involves QuarkXPress-like software known as CCI). Essentially, you start with a blank page; edit stories for mistakes, style and/or clarity; consult with the authors if necessary; write display type (headlines, etc.); order photos; put together graphic elements; etc.

It's a process that often comes together right at the last minute, given the deadlines involved. There's always games on the various televisions, and the phone never stops ringing.

What access does it all offer? Other than the ability to see the newswire live, where stories come in from Canadian Press, Associated Press, Reuters, etc., probably not much. (Even then, the wire copy is often online at most sites within minutes.)

The biggest advantage is likely the fact that you're working with the material your entire workday, and games are on nearby televisions 24/7. The other terrific resource is the people around you, as most of my coworkers have 20+ years experience in the industry and are usually talking sports.

I'd certainly never blog anything that wasn't already "out there" that I'd picked up in the newsroom, but often we're discussing general issues and/or ideas and there's a lot of great stuff that comes out of those conversations. It's almost like a private, unstructured sports-talk show every night, and every participant brings particular knowledge to the discussion.

You also try to stay updated on what other sports media organizations are up to, and if a big story breaks (i.e. Mike Keenan's hiring late Wednesday night) from TSN, Sportsnet or the Toronto Star, you want to be on top of it. I spent a lot of my free time looking through my various RSS feeds, trying to see what else is going on throughout the night.

It's something I find goes hand-in-hand with blogging.

It's good work; I enjoy it. It's generally a fast-paced environment, and even when it's not, the newsroom's still an interesting place to be, and it never feels like a traditional desk job. The hours are sometimes long, and I work a lot of nights, but sports coverage isn't a 9-to-5, Monday to Friday deal.



At 11:18 a.m., June 18, 2007, Blogger PJ Swenson said...

James, add a link to your post on the redesign of the Globe and Mail on the sportsdesigner blog. I thought it was a cool one.

At 3:02 p.m., June 18, 2007, Blogger Jeremy said...

Cool glimpse in to your workflow and environment -- thanks for sharing. I've wondered the same before when you've referenced the sports desk...


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