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Archive for the ‘leadership’ Category

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

Staff members are entitled to a life outside the newsroom.

When work has to intrude, acknowledge the intrusion. Apologize for calling at home or for interfering with dinner or vacation or weekend plans. Thank the reporter who came in on a day off or skipped lunch to deal with your demands or questions. Thank the editor who worked late on a breaking story even though he had a Cub Scout meeting that night. Commend the reporter who took the initiative to cover news that broke on personal time. She might have irritated a spouse or missed an important family event. Thanks are in order.

Sometimes thanks should be personal, sometimes public, sometimes both. I like the way Nancy March, editor of the Mercury in Pottstown, Pa., publicly praised staff members who worked through the night to provide her community timely digital coverage of developments in the Boston Marathon bombing case. (more…)

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

Shooting e-mails, texts or social messages back and forth is tempting, easy and sometimes necessary, especially for busy editors with large and moving staffs working different shifts. You want your content-gathering staff to be out of the office covering the community and sometimes an email, text or message on Twitter or Facebook is the best way to communicate quickly.

But you should communicate important messages and many lesser ones face to face. If you have criticism, look the staff member in the eye and state the problem. If you have praise, go to the staff member’s desk, smile and deliver your praise. (more…)

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

An effective newsroom leader understands how much creative control and authorship means to journalists.

My grandmother, Francena H. Arnold, was a novelist who once rejected a publisher’s suggested story line, saying, “I could no more write someone else’s story than I could birth someone else’s baby.” Journalists don’t have quite the freedom Grandma did to choose their own stories, but they share her parental and possessive feelings about their work. Good editors respect and nurture this sense of authorship even while they have to provide more direction to their staff’s work than Grandma allowed. (more…)

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

Sometimes a new editor inadvertently squelches staff creativity and initiative by telling staff members what they should be doing and how. An editor can communicate priorities and stimulate staff creativity by asking, rather than telling.

Whether you’re asking about general staff performance or specific stories, good questions are effective leadership tools.

(more…)

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

A Digital First editor leads a lot of change in a newsroom. So you need to be sure that your staff receives the training to execute the changes you are leading.

I help with this in my visits to the newsrooms of new editors for Digital First Media, but the need for training continues and the editor should make training part of the newsroom’s culture and routines:

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This guest post by Sue Burzynski Bullard continues a series on advice for new top editors in Digital First Media newsrooms.

Sue Burzynski Bullard

Sue Burzynski Bullard

A piece of advice someone once gave me became my rule to live by as an editor: “Always do what you say you’ll do.”

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? But the transition from being responsible only for you to being responsible for others – reporters, copy editors, and photographers – isn’t simple. Suddenly, the demands on your already packed schedule get even crazier. Everyone wants you. Everyone needs you. Right now.

And you want your team to be able to depend on you.

So “do what you say you’ll do,” or to “be where you say you’ll be” means getting organized. And if your idea of organized is smacking Post-it notes all over your computer, you’ll quickly discover you need a better way.

Here are a few digital tools that may help you:

  • Use a calendar. I prefer Google calendar because it’s simple to use and it connects with my Gmail account, contacts and other Google apps. Google has a slew of training videos on how to get the most out of your calendar. One of my favorite features is setting up text message alerts for events in my Google calendar. Check out these tips for using Google calendar from BetterCloud. (more…)

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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. (more…)

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

Journalism ethics should be a topic of frequent discussions in a Digital First newsroom. I’ve already mentioned the importance of stressing and upholding accuracy in your newsroom. The editor needs to make standards clear to the staff. Even if you have a written ethics policy, your newsroom ethics need to be shaped by frequent discussions that the editor leads, joins, stimulates and guides.

I have frequently criticized newsroom social-media policies for being rooted too often in fear and ignorance. Editors who aren’t using social tools much, if any, dictate rules based on their fears that someone on their staff is going to make bad decisions.

Your staff is going to make better decisions in using social media if they’ve discussed with you (or with their direct editors, or, ideally both) how they should use social media: What’s the appropriate place (if any) for opinion in their social media use; how much they should or should not mix personal and professional social media use. You can hear their what-ifs and respond before something becomes a problem. If you’re still learning social media yourself (and we all are), discussing the ethical issues with staff members more experienced in social media use will advance your education. (more…)

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

An editor must stand up for your staff.

This is one of an editor’s most important duties (and one you usually should avoid delegating because no one can do it as well as the editor).

Listen earnestly to critics. When your newsroom has made errors you need to correct and apologize. The obligation to stand up for your staff is not more important than your obligation to be accurate and accountable. But when you have not made errors and just have honest disagreements with critics, respectfully stand your ground and stand up for your staff. (more…)

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

The Digital First editor needs to lead the staff in mastering the art of reporting the unfolding story accurately.

Your staff needs to understand that getting-it-first and getting-it-right are not conflicting choices but essential dual priorities. If you don’t have it right, you don’t have it first – you don’t have it at all. But you work to get it right quickly. Your staff needs to work urgently to report news as you verify facts.

Demand verification. Ask frequently, “How do you know that?” Then ask, “How else do you know that?” (I’m not sure which journalist first started stressing the first question, but I first heard the “How else …” question from Rosalie Stemer.)

Much attention lately has been paid to the importance of verifying information from social media. You need to demand verification in all situations: not just information reported in tweets, but information from routine sources and from unnamed sources. You don’t just accept the he-said-she-said story from reporters; you insist that they dig past the conflicting stories and report the truth. (more…)

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

You’re not perfect. You know it and your staff knows it. Admitting your own errors (and apologizing for them, if an apology is due) builds credibility with your staff, especially if you’re going to be critical of them.

That workshop on leads that were too long (discussed in the previous post) started with a lead of mine that was too long. I made some fun of my own work (self-deprecating humor is an important management tool), and then turned to staff-written leads and what they needed to do to start writing tighter, better-focused leads.

Few things annoy journalists (who can be tough critics) more than editors who think they’re always right. Admitting an error to the staff underscores that you’re all learning together. If you’re not good at tweeting or editing video, admit that to a staff member who is good and ask for some coaching. Or ask the staff member to lead a workshop (and round up some other staff members who need to work on that skill to join you). (more…)

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

Your staff doesn’t always deserve praise. Sometimes you need to identify problems for staff members to address, and you need to do that directly.

Focus your criticism on the action and result and on solutions, not on the person: Instead of saying someone’s a bad writer or can’t write a good lead, show a cumbersome, unfocused lead and talk about some techniques to help the person writer better leads. (If the staff member is aware of the problem, move straight to the instruction and challenge without piling on with the criticism.)

Journalists respond well to challenges. Don’t just tell a reporter that her leads are too long. Challenge her to write a strong lead for the story she’s working on today in fewer than 20 words. She will be able to meet the challenge. She’ll probably see that it’s better than the long lead from yesterday that resulted in the challenge. And your challenge will turn the criticism into a positive experience, not an ass-kicking.

Criticism needs to be clear and direct, delivered face to face (but possibly followed up in writing), with eye contact. But the criticism is not as important as the challenge that accompanies it.

For individual problems, criticism should be handled privately, to avoid embarrassment and minimize defensiveness. But if you have a problem that’s widespread, you need to address it openly. (more…)

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