This post continues a series on advice for new top editors in Digital First Media newsrooms.
Earlier this month I finished a chore that was a lot of work and worth every minute: Planning and emceeing a program to recognize the best work of 2012 by Digital First Media journalists.
Kudos to CEO John Paton and Editor in Chief Jim Brady for spending the money to give cash prizes and plaques to the DFMie winners and for bringing them from across the country to Denver for the awards program.
If you’re a local DFM editor (or an editor in another company), you may not have the money to do an awards program at the newsroom level, but at least you won’t have travel costs. And you should try to put a local recognition program into your budget. All the DFM senior publishers were at the DFMies and commented on what a great program it was. Maybe they’ll fight to get some local recognition in your budget. But they won’t do that unless you ask. One of my rules of journalism and life is “never say no for someone else.” So don’t say no for your publisher. Ask for a recognition program for your newsroom.
And if the publisher says no, recognize excellence in a way that’s cheap or free.
We do the DFMies monthly and annually to recognize the best work companywide with cash awards. While the cash is important, and adds meaning to the recognition, I believe the recognition is more important than the cash. If you can’t get cash for the awards, get the newsroom involved in brainstorming another meaningful way to recognize excellence: Maybe a traveling trophy (it could be serious or silly) that sits on the winner’s desk for a month or a quarter until the next winner is chosen. Maybe lunch with the editor. Maybe a paid day off.
Turn your recognition program into an opportunity for colleagues to learn from each others’ excellence. For the monthly DFMies, we have tried different ways of getting the winners to tell how they did their winning work: video chats with Jim Brady, interactive looks at their winning projects (including how-I-did-it accounts from the winners), liveblogs with the winners.
For the annual program, I told the winners not to thank people in their acceptance speeches, but to share tips or lessons from their winning work. Those tips were inspiring and instructional and made for a truly uplifting program. The program also included a video about each of the winners, most of them contributed by the winners themselves. Check the Inside Thunderdome blog today for the videos about the winning projects as well as some videos of winners’ tips.
If I had any doubts whether the annual DFMie program was worth the time and money we spent on it (I didn’t), this email from Susan Steade, winner of the DFMie for SEO headline writing, would have erased them quickly:
I want to thank you for making the DFMies happen. Before I went to Denver last week, I was happy for the award and I was looking forward to meeting the other winners, but I didn’t expect the experience would change the way I do my job. Now, I think it could.
As with many DFM employees who don’t often leave the office, I had gotten into a very efficient groove. Which is fine, as far as it goes, but it didn’t leave me time to step back and take a big-picture view. On Thursday I found myself so inspired by my colleagues, by the big thinking they do even in a time of limitations, that I started thinking about how I can carve out the space for more projects beyond the daily (routine).
I feel fortunate to have been among those wonderful journalists and to hear that we had the support of you and Mr. Brady and Mr. Paton. I bet I’m not the only one who left there recharged — I think DFM’s investment in this will pay off in a big way.
Robert Mills, winner of the DFMie for best staff blogger, appropriately blogged his appreciation for the program and for the broader understanding it gave him of the excellent work his colleagues are doing:
I was truly blown away by the other journalists from Digital First Media that I got to meet in Denver.
When Toni Momberger was named Digital First Media’s Journalist of the Year (the only award that was a surprise during the program) last week, her joy underscored the power and impact of recognition and reward.
The honor prompted an even more prestigious honor back in Redlands:
— Toni Momberger (@tonimomberger) September 16, 2013
Other tweets from and about the DFMies underscored the power of reward and recognition:
— Inside Thunderdome (@DFMThunderdome) September 12, 2013
— Jim Brady (@jimbradysp) September 14, 2013
Toni Momberger named DFM journalist of the year.
— Michael Anastasi (@ma_anastasi) September 13, 2013
— Sarah Favot (@sarahfavot) September 12, 2013
— Lauren Gold (@laurenkgold) September 12, 2013
— Matt DeRienzo (@mattderienzo) September 12, 2013
— Jessica Keating (@keating_edits) September 13, 2013
Want to contribute a guest post?
I welcome guest posts on other leadership topics. 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. Tim McGuire wrote about controlling your calendar and thinking big. Sue Burzynski Bullard provided such a post on organizational tools. Nancy March wrote about balancing work and personal life. Dan Rowinski wrote about mobile opportunities. Teresa Schmedding wrote about leadership style.
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.
Earlier posts with advice for editors
Here are topics I am planning on covering in this series (the order is uncertain). What other topics should I cover?
- Developing new leaders