This continues a series on advice for new top editors in Digital First Media newsrooms.
Daily news meetings are an important place for editors to emphasize priorities.
If a morning meeting focuses on the next day’s newspaper, that will be the focus of the staff’s energies. A Digital First editor should place the focus, especially in a morning meeting, on plans and results for digital content. Don’t critique the morning paper (or, if you must, critique it briefly at the end of the meeting). Instead, you should discuss what’s resonating this morning with your digital audience: What’s getting strong traffic? What’s generating comments on your site or your Facebook page or on Twitter? Do you have plans (or should you make them) for advancing those stories through the day?
If you have projection capability in your conference room, show the site and/or your Facebook page and/or your analytics page(s) on the screen to aid in the discussions.
Discuss digital coverage plans for the day: What video are you shooting? What stories might you be able to supplement with YouTube videos? What stories provide good crowdsourcing opportunities and how should you pitch them to the community? What are photo gallery opportunities, and are you planning to shoot them (and/or to seek community photos)? What events will you be covering live this day (and the next)? Will you be livetweeting them, liveblogging, livestreaming or some combination? Are you planning a live chat about an event or timely issue (or should you?)? Discuss what you’re promoting (or will promote later in the day) on social media.
The meeting also should reflect that mobile content and audience are growing in importance (more than one-third of Digital First newsrooms get half or more of their digital audience on mobile platforms). Look at your tablet and phone apps during the meeting to see whether the right stories are featured and how your content is displaying. If you can project a laptop or phone screen, that would be great, but holding a device up or passing it around will work. (At a recent meeting of Digital First senior editors, one editor showed that a photo was displaying improperly on his newsroom’s iPad app and quickly messaged back to his newsroom to get it fixed.) Discuss opportunities for engaging with your mobile community.
For the morning meeting, the print product should be an afterthought: Perhaps a brief mention of which stories have page-one potential or of any graphic elements for print that will need attention early in the day.
Two Digital First newsrooms that have an excellent digital focus to their morning meetings are the York Daily Record and Salt Lake Tribune. The Bay Area News Group, which has a morning conference call of editors from multiple newsrooms, has dramatically changed the focus of its morning meetings in the past couple years from print to digital.
If you have a late-afternoon meeting, that can focus appropriately more on print. Most of your day’s digital news traffic and coverage is behind you and the print deadlines are approaching. Go ahead and make your page-one plans. But even here, you need to mix in some digital discussion. If you have some evening events, discuss your live coverage plans. If you have an afternoon or evening iPad edition, discuss which stories will be ready and how they will be played. Facebook use gets a boost in the evening, so you should also plan some evening posts.
Maybe you should overhaul your meeting(s) in other ways. Should you scrap them altogether and communicate through a shared Google doc or gchat and/or smaller conversations with one or a few staff members at a time? Should you invite all staffers into a meeting that’s now just for the editors? Or should you invite staffers from remote bureaus or sister newsrooms to join by conference call or Google Hangout? Should you meet in the middle of the newsroom instead of a conference room?
Should you livestream the meeting or invite the public to attend in person, as the Register Citizen does in Torrington, Conn.? If you do, you might want to tell staff to tone down foul language or edgy sarcasm, if your meetings tend to be foul or sarcastic. And you certainly need to tell staffers to be careful not to mention details that shouldn’t be public, such as confidential sources, juveniles whose names you won’t be publishing and speculation about people who might be charged with crimes.
In some posts in this series, I have discussed examples where my leadership was successful, which can come off as boasting. So I should acknowledge here that I was not successful in significantly changing how we conducted meetings when I was editor at the Cedar Rapids Gazette. I did not want to take over running the meetings, so I mentioned to an editor who led most of the meetings how I would like the meetings to change. I would often (if I attended a meeting) ask some questions about live coverage, video or other digital aspects of our coverage, but the focus of the meetings did not change as strongly as it needed to.
At one point when I engaged the staff in working on several aspects of change, a couple of staff members were going to study our meetings and make some recommendations about how to change them. I moved on from the editor’s role before we made those changes, and I don’t know whether or how they changed their meetings.
I think I directed my energies to important areas and made significant changes. But meetings are an important – if often boring and ridiculed – part of newsroom culture. I did not sufficiently change the strong print focus of our meetings at the Gazette. Five years deeper into the digital age, an editor with print-focused meetings needs to take charge of the meetings and ensure that they reflect and guide your newsroom’s digital focus.
How do your newsroom planning meetings reflect your digital priorities?
This series continues Wednesday with a guest post by University of Nebraska journalism professor Sue Burzynski Bullard.
Jill Geisler’s What Great Bosses Know about Managing Meetings
Earlier posts with advice for editors
Here are topics I am planning on covering in this series (the order is tentative). What other topics should I cover?
- The power of questions
- Respecting authorship
- Face-to-face communication
- Personal life
- Time management
- Developing new leaders
- The editor’s blog
- Role models
The posts probably will run daily Monday-Friday for the next few weeks, though I got busy yesterday and didn’t post one. If you’re another Digital First editor (or a leader or former leader in another organization) and would like to propose a guest post as part of the series, email me at sbuttry (at) digitalfirstmedia (dot) com and we’ll discuss. I’m not interested in a post of general leadership tips. I’d rather have a post on a particular leadership topic. Feel free to suggest a post that might address a topic I’ve already covered, but from a different perspective. I welcome posts that disagree with my advice. I will invite a few editors I respect to write posts.