John Chidley A blog about reading, writing, pop culture and sports.


Where have I been?

A corner of the Canadian Press newsroom in Toronto. Not my corner though. This picture is from Centennial College's journalism blog, taken by Gesila Azorbo.

As you can see, I haven’t posted on this blog since – yikes – the middle of April.

Where has all my writing energy gone? To the Canadian Press, of course.

In early March I was taken off the junior hockey beat and bumped up to a reporter-editor on the sports desk. Since then, I’ve been working between three and six shifts a week covering anything that comes across my desk, sometimes on day shifts and sometimes at night.

There are four “spots” on the sports desk that a reporter-editor fills.

Broadcast news – Broadcast News was a separate company that for years provided television and radio stations with copy for announcers to read. The Canadian Press bought BN and eventually merged it into its main news wire service. The BN desk is still responsible for writing and editing copy primarily for our broadcast wire and taking care of audio-visual material.

This means turning around audio clips for TV and radio stations and writing what we call sportsbreaks and minutes.

You’ll hear this copy on the radio, typically on a non-sports station. Consider a classic rock station. If the DJ isn’t a big sports fan, or is too busy managing the songs on the station, they just use our sportsbreak to run down the latest sports news every hour or so. The writing is simple, brief and designed to be easily read by those unfamiliar with the pronunciation of athletes names.

For example, recent NBA playoff MVP Dirk Nowitzki would be written as “recent N-B-A playoff M-V-P Dirk Nowitzki (noh-VIHT'-skee)”.

Second chair – On the sports desk the second chair has a lot of names. “Second chair”, “second editor”, “little chair”. Generally, this editor is responsible for Canadianizing copy from the Associated Press by highlighting the accomplishments of Canadian athletes (“Toronto’s Joey Votto”) and fixing words to their Canadian spelling (dueled becomes duelled, among countless other changes).

The second chair might also write fresh copy, from box score, press release or phone interview. Most often, it’s a combination of all three. However, all that is at the discretion of the slotperson.

Slotperson – The slot is the person in charge of the desk. They dish out assignments and are the final arbiter of what is or isn’t newsworthy. The morning slotperson is the first to arrive and the evening slot is the last to leave at – God help them – 3 a.m. I haven’t had many of these shifts since I’m pretty new to the desk, but it does happen.

The slotperson does everything the second chair does, only more of it and is expected to take responsibility for the biggest story of the day, whatever it may be.

General assignment – On occasion senior reporter-editors are put on general assignment so they can pursue feature stories or develop their beat. For example, our Canadian Football League writer Dan Ralph has been preparing for the upcoming season and hockey writer Chris Johnston has been getting ready for the NHL draft. I’m not yet senior enough to do GA, but I still thought I’d mention this desk task.

All this adds up to me being a very busy guy. I’ve gone stretches with 12 shifts in 13 days.

Unfortunately, as much as I love writing, reading and editing, it’s hard to get jazzed about it when you’ve already done it for seven hours that day.

In any event, now that I’m becoming more comfortable on the desk I’ll be coming back here a lot more. I’ve got some book reviews coming up for Chapters-Indigo that I’ll cross-post here as well as some pieces specifically for this blog as well as some work for my friends over at