Ten things newsroom managers need to know about journalism now

For print newspapers to survive and possibly flourish as digital businesses, some new rules are needed. And they are not necessarily the ones they taught you at journalism school.

1. Stop treating your staff like they work in a factory. Traditionally, newspapers have employed skilled knowledge workers and made them function within rigid hierarchies to produce text on a production line. Right now though, you want your reporters to be interacting with others in the story-building process. You want to be thinking of how to create original stories that can be told in a compelling way online, with sound, video, photographs or data maps.

2. Ban social media use at your peril.
That tweet may just be the lead to your front page, and that Facebook account may be the only path to a source. Encourage the building of relationships and communities online, as this will enable reporters to create better journalism by being in touch with what people care about. And then there’s the obvious sharing of links. Still not convinced? Read why ‘Facebook Could Become World’s Leading News Reader (Sorry Google)’

3. Create new rules that help staff make the most of what is out there.
Instead of banning or disallowing new things, spend some time thinking creatively about how to draft a realistic policy for their use that sets some boundaries.

4. Look around and notice that your audience is no longer playing “follow the leader”.
Not only are your followers not waiting for your final word on news, they are making their own. Recently the prestigious George Polk Award for courageous and skillful reporting went to the “anonymous Iranian or Iranians who captured the death of a 26-year-old protestor on tape”.

5. You are not going to get great ideas by managing with a carrot or a stick.
It’s time to rethink the way reporters are managed, and time to encourage collaborative efforts and not only reward column centimetres published.

6. Digital change is now an integral part of the newspaper business.
Gone are the days where digital change was seen as a sideshow to the newspaper business, so get comfortable with this idea. The rate of technological change demands responsiveness. Build a culture to enable this.

7. Pay attention to what others have to say, rather than making pronouncements.
You might learn something. The editor role is changing. Forget the pronouncements and try facilitating conversations in newsrooms and among your audience. In some settings, the people who are to be “managed” by you are more knowledgeable than you are. This applies to employees, who have new and other skills not traditionally based in newspapers (videographers, designers and developers), and it also applies to audiences who are even producing their own content without the same costs or challenges you face.

8. If a system doesn’t work for the goal you have in mind, clinging onto it won’t save you.
Toss it out and come up with a new one. Better still, ask your team to help find the answer.

9. Make some sweeping changes in your IT hiring policies.
It’s time to transform your IT department from a BPU (Business Prevention Unit) into a hub of innovation. Start looking for people with multiple skills and a can-do attitude. New performance measures should be built around providing systems and tools that open up access — so content can be produced at multiple levels — rather than locking them down with only security and stability in mind.

10. Review the way decisions are made, and change it.
Try some fast-thinking and fast-acting, rather than 80-page documents outlining the business objectives. Some ideas require a very small investment to test whether they will work. Create a space for this.



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