Archive for June, 2013

Bryan Cantley

Bryan Cantley

I don’t know many people who have helped as many journalists as Bryan Cantley. Few have helped me as much.

Bryan died yesterday of pancreatic cancer.

He was a gentleman and a friend and he gave me extraordinary opportunities that boosted my journalism training business.

I first met Bryan in 2002. I was fairly new to the business of journalism training and I think I sent a pitch for my workshops to the Canadian Newspaper Association. I can’t recall whether I even had his name or sent it blindly to the group’s executive director, but somehow it ended up with the right guy.

I had just done some training for the Cariboo Press newspapers in British Columbia, and was interested in doing more work in Canada. Nick Russell, a leading Canadian voice in journalism ethics, was another speaker at the Cariboo conference and he put in a good word to me with Bryan.

Before long, Bryan invited me to train editors and reporters at a workshop of the Canadian Association of Newspaper Editors in Lethbridge, Alberta, in the fall of 2002. And he helped me arrange some more workshops on the same trip at the Calgary Herald.

We quickly became friends over dinner and enjoyed many more dinners and drinks across Canada, and a few games of his beloved Toronto Blue Jays.

Bryan wore multiple hats, planning programs such as training and awards for four different journalism organizations: CNA (now Newspapers Canada), CANE, the Ryerson Journalism Alumni Association and the Commonwealth Journalists Association.

Over the next six years, Bryan invited me to speak at a dozen or so conferences for three of those groups, all but the CJA. I visited Lethbridge, Halifax, Toronto, Winnipeg and  Saskatoon for events that Bryan organized. I was an annual speaker — and once the keynote speaker — for five years at the Wordstock writing workshop he organized for the Ryerson alumni.

The contacts from those conferences led to lots of other business for me across Canada. Everywhere I went, I met friends of Bryan who were as fond of him as I was.

Mimi accompanied me on several of those trips and we dined several times as couples with Bryan and his wife. Eleanor showed Mimi around Toronto and they toured together in Halifax.

At the Canadian Newspaper Association conference in 2007, when Bryan was approaching retirement, his colleagues and friends in the business roasted and saluted him in a fond farewell. I enjoyed getting to see that my affection and admiration for Bryan was shared throughout Canadian journalism.

But Bryan’s retirement wasn’t really a farewell. He organized another Wordstock or two. He continued helping the CJA. On my last visit to Toronto in 2011 (at another organization’s invitation following Bryan’s semi-retirement), Mimi and I dined again with Bryan and Eleanor (the last time I saw him). He was planning a CJA program in Malta for 2012 and fretting over the details (Bryan knew that details made for a successful conference and he was a master at running a smooth and fun event).

Bryan also kept running the National Newspaper Awards program, Canada’s equivalent of the Pulitzer Prizes. He was honored last week with the Michener-Baxter Award for his special contribution to Canadian journalism.

In one of our last email exchanges, Bryan told of visiting Hawaii with Eleanor last November, when friends and family of my nephew, Brandon Buttry, honored his memory with a cheeseburger salute the day he was supposed to return from Afghanistan (Brandon was killed in action last year). Bryan never met Brandon, but he and Eleanor joined the salute from the original Cheeseburger in Paradise on Maui and sent me a photo.

I’m glad Bryan and Eleanor had that vacation in paradise in his last year. I’m glad he helped me so often and so generously. I’m sad that we’ve lost him, but I’ve smiled a lot since learning the sad news yesterday, fondly remembering one of my favorite people in journalism.

Cheeseburger in Paradise


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I’m a keynote speaker at the Journalism, Leadership and Management Conference for student media leaders this weekend at the Greenlee School of Journalism at Iowa State University.

I was asked to talk to the students about leadership and the future. My primary point is that young journalists are already providing important leadership in our profession and they have an extraordinary opportunity and extraordinary examples to shape journalism in their careers.

I don’t have a written version of the address, but my slides are below. I sought advice for these young journalists from some outstanding successful journalists. I shared some of the advice on my slides. In other cases, I drew my advice from things these journalists had posted online (or things they said in interviews). Or I just drew my own lessons for the students from these journalists’ careers.

Here are the responses from the young journalists who sent advice to the students: (more…)

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This continues a series on advice for new top editors in Digital First Media newsrooms.

Staff behavior and performance problems are among an editor’s greatest challenges and opportunities.

The staff member who is performing poorly or behaving inappropriately can bring a newsroom down and in most cases an editor needs to deal decisively with it. The performance and/or behavior can spread. The tolerance of the performance and/or behavior sets a standard for other staff members. And your newsroom is too thinly staffed for your good performers to be stretched a bit more to cover for the slacker.

That’s the challenge. The opportunity is that a successful discussion with the top editor at a critical moment can help turn a career around and turn a problem into a productive staff member.

The needed conversation is uncomfortable and difficult, but it’s one of an editor’s most important moments of leadership. (more…)

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Continuing a discussion of how newsrooms and photojournalists need to respond to changes in journalism and photography:

Scott Bryant

After I blogged my criticism of the Chicago Sun-Times for firing its photo staff, I followed with a guest post from someone who had emailed me privately. A comment on that post deserved greater attention and a response, so I am posting it here with permission or the commenter, Scott Bryant, a photojournalist at the Statesboro Herald in Georgia.

I’ve experienced some of the resistance from still photographers that some are describing, both personally and through conversations with colleagues. I’m not quite buying your “guest’s” general characterization of what’s going on with many still photojournalists, though.

First, the decision NOT to identify your “veteran visual journalist” is, well, just a little cowardly, if you ask me. If this person is such a veteran and cares about what’s happening to colleagues, then he/she should stand up, identify him/herself, and sing it from the mountains! Be a leader, not a sniping critic in the shadows.

I disagree with the characterization of the guest poster as cowardly. I frequently receive emails from people wanting to discuss a matter with me directly. I asked if I could use this email as a guest post. The writer agreed, on the condition that I not use the name. This person is a leader, but in a context where we’re discussing people getting fired, I respect a person’s wish to communicate privately. I pushed to make the post public and I’m comfortable withholding the name. Back to Scott: (more…)

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Some experienced print photographers are too dismissive of video and multimedia opportunities, a veteran visual journalist told me in an email.

The journalist messaged me privately after my post last week about the Chicago Sun-Times firing its whole photo staff. I asked the journalist if I could use the email in a blog post. We agreed I would use it but not identify the sender, who did not want to offend colleagues (so I have edited lightly to take out identifying information):

As a former staff photographer now working mostly in video, I surely empathize with the staffers who were let go, I also understand, but don’t agree with the business model that’s playing out at the Sun-Times.

While I agree that photojournalists are in fact the best-equipped members on staff to assume a visual leadership role for video, I’ve also witnessed first-hand a reluctance by newspaper staff photographers to take ownership of all things video. (more…)

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Today I want to call attention to a post by someone else: Are You Mad at Me? by Adam Bryant. It underscores how closely a newsroom watches the editor (or any workplace watches the boss):

I learned a memorable lesson that day about how people can read so much into subtle, and often unintended, cues.

I’ve blogged earlier in this series about the editor’s example and about role models. I’ll have a full post later in the week, but this link certainly fits well in my series on advice for editors.

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This continues a series on advice for new top editors in Digital First Media newsrooms.

Time is one of an editor’s and a newsroom’s most precious resources. Spend your time wisely to move your newsroom forward and elevate your digital journalism.

The challenges of digital journalism give you – and your staff – lots more things to do without giving you any more time. To succeed, you need to manage your time – and your staff’s time – efficiently or you will certainly be overwhelmed.

To manage your time effectively, a top newsroom editors must:

  • Set priorities.
  • Delegate.
  • Decide what to stop doing.
  • Decide what to do less of.
  • Decide where you can accept a lower standard.
  • Identify time-wasters.
  • Find opportunities to use technology to work more efficiently.


Few things an editor does are more important than setting priorities. Decide for yourself how you and your staff should spend your time. The priorities you set will shape other time-management decisions. (more…)

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