Calling Burlington: Merging copy, sports desks?

That’s what a Gannett Blog reader wants to know. The reader hears The Burlington (Vt.) Free Press‘ sports copy editing will be merged with general news copy editing, “to create one big happy ‘desk’ that puts the paper together each night. Nobody is happy about the impending merge.”

Can anyone confirm — and add details? Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

Earlier: Burlington among papers boosting price 50%

18 Responses to “Calling Burlington: Merging copy, sports desks?”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Asheville (NC) went to a “universal” copy desk a few years ago, and the sports pages immediately went (and are still going) downhill. And, of course, the A-Team copy desk takes the weekend off, so the most important sports pages are put out by the least informed copy editors. Hedlines and cutlines are ridiculously shallow and uninformed and story play varies radically from day to day. Ex: UNC beats NC State in basketball, story page 5 on Sunday. In North Freaking Carolina, for crissakes.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Yeah, this is a recipe for disaster. Sports copy editors are a special breed — they live and breathe the stuff; they love the statistics; they remember the history. Burlington will just wind up with a weaker sports section, which will p*ss off readers. Another example of false economy. Good going.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    another example of what you get when you have a totally green publisher that didn’t cut his teeth at a small paper. he has no clue on how to run a newspaper but GCI has no choice….they are out of players..

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Universal desk has been stumbling along here for more than a year. I’m in sports and, yes, it’s a mess.

  5. Mr. Yesterday Says:

    Is the Little Dictator really still chairman there like the Gannett Web site says?

    This sounds like a stunt he’d (that being Jim Carey) would pull. He was a publisher, after all, who only knew about selling ads. He didn’t know from copy desk and rim editors and the like.

    Seems doomed to fail, this universal desk.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Maybe the idea has not worked because the people involved have not wanted it to work? All you journalists out there are soo smart and you can’t make joining two desks to work? And you wonder why newspapers are hurting?

  7. Anonymous Says:

    This can and has worked out just fine at many smaller newspapers. I worked at a newspaper that did this 10 years ago and it worked out just fine.

    It’s all about how you make the transition and how you allocate duties — someone in the sports department should still be deciding story play before the rimmers come in and write the heds.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Some place have a “universal” design desk which has made the look of the paper suffer.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    to anon 6:06: I respect your point, but I have never, ever seen a universal copy desk experiment work as well as the sports folks taking care of their business. If more non-sports journalists (and ad sales reps) understood their audiences as well and had the passion of most sports people, we’d be a lot better off these days. It would be fun to flip the whole thing around. The news pages might be better if we beefed up the sports copy desk and let them design and edit the rest of the paper.(And I’m not in sports.)

  10. Anonymous Says:

    Sports folk in general are probably the best at dealing with deadlines.

    11:30 deadline.
    Game ends at 11:15, first-version filed at 11:21, copy desk gives it a read until 11:25 (and they already know the outcome and have written a hed ’cause they watched it or heard it), flow it on the page, trim a graf here to make it fit and push the send button at 11:29:59.

    It’s a pace most news desk folks will freak about, and it’s like that every night.

    Can you imagine any other copy editor, save for sports guys, who have no idea what they’re main art is going to be at, oh, 10 p.m. and are totally cool with that?

    And to be clear, Mike Lopresti (GNS) is one THE BEST on-deadline writers out there.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    Re: Anon 10:17 and sports deadlines. I reminded of something a sports editor said when I worked in Poughkeepsie (not in sports). We were going over election night plans and discussing (and complaining about) deadlines and asked the sports editor if he had anything to add (had to inclusive after all). He looked at us like we were a bunch of ninnies and said rather dismissively “Every night is election night in Sports.” I loved that.

  12. Anonymous Says:

    My Gannett paper has had a “universal” copy desk for several years. It has allowed us to maintain efficiences as we downsized. We are not a metro, so we must be jacks-of-all trades on the desk. It’s far from the end of the world if its done right.

  13. Anonymous Says:

    Hattiesburg American combined sports and copy desk about two months ago.

  14. Anonymous Says:

    Is it true that Hattiesburg will now deliver some of the Clarion Ledger papers in some of the more remote areas? If that is true, what are customers saying about the later delivery times since the Ledger is a morning paper and Hattiesburg has an afternoon delivery deadline? Anyone know?

  15. Anonymous Says:

    The American is now a morning paper. I don’t know about the Ledger delivery, but I had heard American delivery had been cut in some rural areas. I’ll find out.

  16. Anonymous Says:

    Thanks. What about staff cuts in Mississippi?

  17. Anonymous Says:

    The American has cut back on delivery in neighboring cities and in several rural areas. Didn’t find out about Ledger deliveries yet.
    We haven’t had cutbacks in Hattiesburg, but newsroom positions aren’t being filled. We’ve lost an editorial page editor (over a year ago), a night editor and a copy editor. They aren’t going to be replaced.

  18. Anonymous Says:

    Hey Mr. Yesterday:

    Little Dictator was retired and replaced after a meeting with Sue Clark Johnson.

    Hasn’t been seen or heard since except when he has a missed paper.

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