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Editor's column: Spread thin, but working hard

Having all hands on deck isn’t saying much when attrition and turnover are part of the equation.

September 7, 2013
By Per Peterson , Marshall Independent

f you know anything about the newspaper business, you know reporters come and go. And come and go. And come and go. You get the idea. It happens at small dailies all the time, and the Independent is no different.

Our new sports editor, Jeff Arenz, has been here for about two weeks, just got moved in last weekend, and no sooner did we welcome him that we learned our lone full-time sports writer, Travis Andries, is leaving to take a job in the Hopkins School District.

Of course, this is just about the worst time of year to be dealing with attrition in the sports department, what with a new football and volleyball season here, but we'll do our best to continue to cover high school and college athletics.

But there's a caveat here. Please know that it won't be easy, and we might not be able to get to as many games as want to. What does that mean? It means that instead of seeing your hometown football or volleyball team featured on Page 1B a day after the game, you will see them in the round-up section - not all the time, but it's impossible to get to as many games or matches as we want to during any given week. A look at the area schedule on certain days can be daunting; when we see nine volleyball matches on any given night we would like to be able to pick three to attend and highlight. Right now, that's not possible, and trust me, it's difficult to know we can't cover certain matches for lack of manpower.

It's also difficult hiring new people who are qualified for the position. Anyone who has been involved in the newspaper business will tell you we're not mistaken for the affluent. Newspaper jobs, aside from being thankless positions, don't pay all that well, never have, so many times when we do find that right fit, it's hard to close the deal because of money. Since becoming editor, I've found that some of the younger journalists seem to have a sense of entitlement as far as what their paycheck says. Twenty years ago, we were just happy to get our foot in the door by landing a job covering sports and getting paid for it. Now, it's as if reporters will only do so if they're making a certain amount of money. Call me old-fashioned, but if you're in this for the money, you're in it for the wrong reason.

That's what makes newspaper people unique - we're not in this for the money. We do what we do because we love it. We love deadlines knocking on our door, the adrenaline kick at 11:50 on a Friday night. We love meeting and interviewing people. We love bringing you the news. If we didn't there wouldn't be people like me around who have been doing this for literally more than half their lives. We even love the criticism. OK, "love" is a strong word. Change that to "appreciate."

Our little sports department, as of this weekend, consists of our new sports editor, two part-timers and our education writer, who spent a number of years in the sports department before moving to the newsroom. She will split time between news and sports. We're patching this together, but thankfully these are four talented, hard-working individuals. A little perspective: When I started at the Independent in 1990, there were three full-timers and three part-timers covering about the same number of schools as we do today.

Do the math.

We work in a revolving-door business. While some of us stick around longer than others, that's more of an exception than a rule. Jeff, for example, is our fourth sports editor in as many years.

We've all heard about the death of newspapers, but I'll tell you right now, we're not dying, we're not going anywhere. We'll step up and do what we must to keep putting out quality papers every day, no matter how much turnover we face. All we ask is for you, our loyal readers, to be patient. We'll get to your hometown eventually, but when you have one full-timer and three part-timers trying to cover a dozen schools and a Division II university, it's nearly impossible to please everyone all of the time. Shoot, that's impossible with a full staff.

We're advertising for that other full-time spot, but there's no way of telling when that sportswriter, whomever it is, will be on board.

In the meantime, throw a little patience and understanding our way. Always remember that we're doing our best with the pieces we've got.

 
 

 

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