By Deb Shaw
Editor, Suburban Publisher
Your staffs are streamlined; hiring freezes are in place; and, as multi-media leaps
into more channels than ever, you are facing the reality of needing to do more with
less. Are you afraid to tell your already overworked and underpaid staff members
that they are about to get even more work heaped on them? Well, according to the
editors who contributed to Leading An Online Newsroom: What You Need to Know* point
out, you shouldn't be.
The additional duties of writing for, posting and engaging your audience digitally
are — perhaps surprisingly — embraced by many reporters and editors.
They know what you know: The Web and its long tail are the future. Not only do they
want in on it, many want to help develop and lead the many new initiatives that
are part and parcel of today’s journalism.
Sure, you might have to help some of them overcome the fear of change but it can
be done, as the e-course contributors who are facing identical challenges, point
out. And, you never know, you might even come up with some creative ways to get
some new initiatives and training help underway.
For instance, Sound Publishing's (WA) new media department provides a Ning.com-powered
site for discussion and training. "My team blogs regularly on that site," says Josh
O'Connor, vice president of East Sound Newspaper Operations. This give and take
among co-workers enables enlightenment and positive momentum to push ideas along.
His team also trains small groups in-person and offers company-wide seminars. They
also use Twitter to communicate to different newsrooms.
Josh O’Connor is video-interviewed by Whitney Mathews of the Lawrence Journal World
(KS) at a recent SNA conference.
Kat Powers, editor of the Somerville Journal (MA), is living proof that quantity
of staff, or lack thereof, is not a hindrance in multi-media news delivery. She
is part of a 3-1/2 person newsroom, including herself, and has been ahead of the
curve in using tools like Facebook and Twitter to help tell stories and engage audience.
She and her staff are motivated by their competitive zeal and thirst to be first
on breaking local news. The Web gives them the opportunity to jump ahead of their
weekly printing cycle and then tell the story differently in the newspaper.
With very limited training resources, Powers says she and her staff are learning
on the job. As they learn personally, they share with one another to help move the
collective learning curve ahead. Training is often associated with equipment —
photo and video gear — and getting used to a new writing schedule based on
a Web-first mentality. "I truly think once you can tell a story in writing, you
can tell a story in video — and photos," she said. "You may be a better writer
than a photographer — I surely am — but you can still take a basic photo
that speaks to the news."
Michael Romaner, of Morris Communications Company, sees shifting to a Web-first
environment as easier than just a few years ago because reporters are just as eager
to compete for readers online as they are in print. "Journalists finally see the
Internet as their future," he said. "The trick is not to convince them to own it.
The trick is to organize things so that it works."
Romaner puts breaking news on the top of the list of things that need to work in
order to help a news paper website grow and the newsroom change, followed by non-breaking
stories going online as quickly as possible. "We are trying to teach journalists
to act like AP reporters: Give me what you got now and then go get some more," he
Point (or Follow) In The Right Direction
The economic landscape has forced creative solutions to many a newsroom challenge.
For example, relying on existing staff to co-mentor and reverse-mentor one another
is an excellent means of learning and sharing expertise. It is a skillful manager
who fosters such an environment while pointing the collective direction yet, for
many, the culture legacy often inhibits new approaches to leading the staff. As
Mark Briggs** so aptly pointed out in a recent SNA Foundation webinar, "culture
eats strategy for lunch."
Joe Grimm will lead the next SNA Foundation free webinar on Leading Multi-Media
Teams: Taking Newsroom Staff Deeper Into The Digital World.
to reserve your spot at this April 15 webinar (3PM EST).
This is precisely the topic that will be explored on April 15 when Joe Grimm takes
center stage at the next free SNA Foundation-sponsored webinar. Grimm is the visiting
journalist at Michigan State University School of Journalism where he teaches reporting
and writing. He’ll draw on his current work with burgeoning journalists and his
experience as staff development editor at the Detroit Free Press to tackle Leading
Multi Media Teams: Taking Newsroom Staff Deeper Into The Digital World.
His work at MSU gives him a first-hand view of the mindset and work processes of
today’s j-school students and, according to Grimm, there is nothing conventional
about them. In his webinar he’ll share many tips for staff development as well as
anecdotes and expectations from his first hand work with the current crop of reporters
hitting the industry.
to attend this free webinar (April 15 at 3pm EST) to learn leadership skills that
will help you guide your newsrooms to tackle their assignments in the not so new
'new media' landscape. In the one hour webinar, Grimm will speak to editors and
other newsroom leaders about new management approaches to developing staffers to
meet the demands of digital publishing.
He’ll address topics like:
- Listen and lead
- Free tools anyone can use
- Knowing what works
- Taking the real-time pulse of your community
You’ll come away with deeper insights about the way reporters want to tackle their
assignments and you’ll learn why you can absolutely benefit by some unconventional
expectations that many of them have.
Special Note: All of the SNA Foundation e-courses and related webinars are free
of charge to users thanks to a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
* Leading An Online Newsroom: What You Need to Know is one in a series of e-courses
sponsored by the SNA Foundation with funds from a Knight Foundation grant. The course
is professionally produced by Poynter Institute’s NewsU. It’s free, interactive
and self directed. Find it at www.newsu.org/LeadingOnlineNewsroom.
** Mark Briggs is the author of Journalism 2.0 and Journalism Next: A Practical
Guide to Digital Reporting and Publishing, He recently led the discussion
at a SNA Foundation sponsored webinar on Innovation at Work: Making New Ideas Succeed.
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