Advice for editors: Make your important points in writing
October 29, 2013 by Steve Buttry
Jim VandeHei, mug shot linked from Politico
Jim VandeHei, CEO of Politico, told his staff in a memo Monday about the culture he wants in the organization.
I won’t go into detail about the specific points in the memo, except to say that I largely agree with what he wrote. But my point here is to say that you should write something like that for your newsroom.
If you’re an employee, you can agree or disagree with Jim about the culture he wants for Politico, and you can debate how well the organization achieves the culture. But you understand the culture he wants. You want the same sort of clarity in your organization about what the boss wants.
Maybe you shouldn’t write about culture. Maybe you should write about workflow or ethics or your vision for the future of your organization. But you should write.
Editors tend to express ourselves well in writing. That’s why we’re in this business. And however well you express yourself in speaking, someone will miss the meeting where you say something important. Or you will say it differently in multiple meetings. On important topics — your vision, the organization’s culture, your approach to news coverage — an editor should occasionally take the time to write. That way you tell everyone in the newsroom (and beyond — if it’s good or important, Romenesko or Poynter or someone else will blog about it) the same thing.
If you lead a newsroom and haven’t written to the full staff recently about an important topic, I recommend reading Jim’s memo and considering what you should tell your staff.
Disclosure: VandeHei and I were colleagues in 2010 and 2011 at Allbritton Communications, which owns Politico and owned TBD, where I worked.
I’ve been a slacker in wrapping up my series on advice for new Digital First editors. I hope to get that done sometime in November.
Earlier posts with advice for editors
Recognize and reward excellence
Control your calendar and think big
Ask staff about their aspirations
Ask staff to propose ways to measure performance
Adapt leadership style to your staff and your challenges
Work and hire to reflect your community’s diversity
Lead your staff in learning data skills
Handle firings with honesty and compassion
Tips for interviewing job candidates
Check a job candidate’s digital profile
Hiring is an opportunity to upgrade your newsroom
Your newsroom is watching
Time is precious; manage it carefully
The digital audience values quality photos
Rethink your mobile approach
Lead your newsroom in pursuing mobile opportunities
The balancing act
Blog about your newsroom’s transformation
You’re a role model; be a good one, like Dave Witke
Respect personal life
Communicate face to face
Ask, don’t tell
Make training a priority
Do what you say you’ll do — by being organized
Lead Digital First meetings
Lead and stimulate discussions of ethics
Stand up for your staff
Stand for accuracy and accountability
Admit your mistakes
Deliver criticism with a challenge
Praise is free but priceless
Disrupt your newsroom culture
Be aware of your example
How do your daily budgets reflect multi-platform planning needs?
What new beats would help newsrooms cover local news better?
Why editors should be active on Twitter
The Buttry version of social media best practices for editors
How the crowd can save your career
Leading your staff into the Twitterverse
Mentors don’t always see their seeds blossom