Houston Community Newspapers

  www.hcnonline.com
  www.hcnonline.com
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Good first post-grad job, wouldn't stick around

  • Comp & Benefits
  • Work/Life Balance
  • Senior Management
  • Culture & Values
  • Career Opportunities
Former Employee - Reporter  in  Houston, TX
Former Employee - Reporter in Houston, TX

I worked at Houston Community Newspapers full-time for more than a year

Pros

Encouraged to develop own story ideas, positive relationships with all supervising editors, flexible (but unpredictable) hours, good journalism experience

Cons

Little guidance or direction from upper management, couldn't seem to decide where they wanted the product to go. I didn't care for sharing the open office with the sales staff, who were pushy and abrasive toward reporters.

Doesn't Recommend
Negative Outlook

6 Other Employee Reviews for Houston Community Newspapers (View Most Recent)

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  1. 2 people found this helpful  

    Low pay with expensive benefits.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Account Executive  in  Houston, TX
    Former Employee - Account Executive in Houston, TX

    I worked at Houston Community Newspapers full-time for more than a year

    Pros

    It was quite nice to be learning to sell by doing it, rather than spending weeks or even months in training classes before being allowed to talk to a single one of the customers. It's not so much a pro though once you start actually doing it and realize you needed all of that training, unfortunately.

    Cons

    Compensation was pretty bad, as were opportunities for personal growth. The company has a strong "advertising is key, editorial is not" bias that really hurts them and makes it clear that they are not a business that will be around for a long time.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Stop cutting back circulation without telling your advertisers.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
  2. 2 people found this helpful  

    I have been working at Houston Community Newspapers full-time for more than a year

    Pros

    *Co-workers are generally nice and easy to get along with
    *You pretty much make your own hours
    *You retain a good deal of control over what news you cover
    *The upper echelons of management pretty much stay in their office up in Conroe, so that's nice (though also a pretty big 'con,' which I'll go into more below).

    Cons

    *The pay is awful (even by journalism standards) and, for whatever reason, hourly instead of salary. Thing about that is, management forbids overtime, for any reason - EVER. If you go just one hour over 40 at the end of the week, expect to hear about it and have your hours changed back to 40.0. As everyone in this industry knows, this job is hardly ever limited to 40 hours a week. We're required to clock in and out everyday, which is a massive time-wasting charade (and frankly, I don't understand how it's legal). If it's going to be like that, why not just put everyone on salary and have done with it? It's asinine.

    *Horrible health benefits, and their 401K is absolutely useless. This isn't exactly a job you want to retire with.

    *Despite the name "Houston Community Newspapers," the company's corporate headquarters is located in Conroe. That's like the New York Times locating their corporate headquarters in Hackensack, New Jersey, or the Washington Post relocating its main base of operations to West Virginia. So upper management is completely, depressingly out-of-touch with anything that's going on outside of Montgomery County. The whole of the Houston Metropolitan Statistical Area has something like 6-10 counties, mind you. I've lived in the Houston area for decades; Conroe, though it's grown in recent years, is simply not a destination. Aside from the Woodlands, Montgomery County may as well be Dallas for the vast majority of the Greater Houston area.

    *When 1013 Star Communications bought out HCN a few years ago, they completely annihilated any online staff. So in addition to all the other work a reporter does, you are expected to scrub/post at least four news stories and two "Living Section" stories online a day, as well as consistently update the community calendar. Upper management has said they want two of those news stories each day to be bylines; however, this is not enforced since even they understand that those are *totally* unrealistic expectations. Edward R. Murrow couldn't do all that in a day. You cannot get blood from a stone.

    *Despite the constant kvetching of the handful of online staff that is left, they are completely unprofessional and sloppy with their postings. Stories with no byline listed, stories post twice, stories posted in the wrong section, stories with 25-plus word headlines, stories where the first paragraph is simply something like "EPA PRESS RELEASE," stories that have zero relevance to your "hyper-local" publication....I could go on.

    *Did I already mention they throw around pennies like manhole covers? Prepare for "we would, if advertising was selling more ads!" as the constant refrain each and every time you suggest a way to improve the paper that might actually require a small financial investment.

    *You, a sales rep, the sports reporter and the spread-entirely-too-thin photographer will be the sole ones from HCN that ever go into your area (if it's not in Montgomery County, that is). It's pretty hard to establish serious presence in the community that way. You'll go to chamber events where other news outlets are out in full force, and you are the single dope from HCN representing the entire company. It's embarrassing, and certainly damages our credibility.

    *The printer is located in Austin. So after you send off the finished paper to the printers, there's a one day delay before it actually makes it to peoples' lawns. For example, if your paper is thrown on Friday, it goes into production on Wednesday. So if you cover a meeting or any kind of breaking news on Wednesday evening, it's not going to appear in print till almost 10 days later. (And that's another thing! I'm no accountant, but doesn't sending multiple 18-wheelers back and forth from Austin each week cost a TON of money? Money that is desperately needed in other areas? There REALLY aren't printers located closer we could use?)

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    I think my 'cons' pretty well lay out what's wrong; doing the opposite of the above would be a good start.

    Guys, I know you're loathe to hear this, but you've got to spend money to make money. There are SO many things that are in dire need of improvement over here, and a lot could be accomplished even with just a SMALL monetary investment. Try contracting an online developer/coder for a few weeks to redesign the unavigable mess of a website instead of a 'marketing event" one month (and these marketing events aren't even in communities we throw in, from what I've seen).

    If the company keeps going at this rate, it's simply a matter of time till 1013 sells to yet another "community newspaper corporation" (one of the greatest oxymorons in modern journalism), and we have a new set of out-of-towners blaming everything on you, just like you do now with ASP Westward (the previous parent owner of HCN, for the uninformed).

    The sad thing is that HCN does indeed have a very real opportunity to compete with the Chronicle. But as it stands now, no one in charge seems to have the first clue on how to tangibly work towards that goal. You just can't say it, you have to actually do something about it, beyond empty, hollow, hackneyed corporate buzz phrases like "One Direction." Currently, that direction is to plow straight into a snowbank of uncoordinated mediocrity.

    Negative Outlook
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