Why it helps to talk about your newsroom culture

This headline jumped out at me from a very interesting blog post by Mark Pollard about the New York ad agency where he works, Big Spaceship: “It’s a very self-aware culture.”

He elaborated:

I can’t recall working somewhere and hearing people talk about the culture of an agency so frequently. It’s common to hear discussion about what sorts of clients and projects we thrive on and what sorts of clients and projects don’t feel right for us.

If you’re a newsroom leader or just interested in promoting a more creative newsroom, I recommend reading Pollard’s full post. Yes, he’s talking about an ad agency. But he just as easily could be describing a newsroom. How often in our newsrooms do we talk about the “sorts of [stories] and projects we thrive on?” If you truly want to do the kind of work you talk about late at night or at conferences, you need to have these conversations — a lot.

A few quick thoughts:

–These “culture” conversations help establish a common frame of reference that can make a big difference on headline. When a big story breaks, how many people will be involved? (Will several editors be trying to assign pieces of the task while the reporter who discovered the story insists she should be left alone to pursue it solo?) How important is immediate digital/social filing?

–“Culture” also can promote change. One of the suggestions I made earlier for writers who want to get editors to approve ambitious narrative storytelling was to make sure there are frequent newsroom conversations about narrative. The same applies for big graphic ideas, telling a story with photos or tweets or whatever.

–Most newsrooms (not just college newsrooms) do a lousy job orienting new staff members. Leaders who frequently talk about what the newsroom is trying to achieve can help acclimate newcomers.

–Talking about 100 things everyone should do better won’t work. I’ve previously recommended some steps toward picking one very important goal and focusing on it every day.

–Respect should be part of every newsroom culture. It must be clearly understood that “we don’t shout down each other’s ideas.” It’s fine if you’re an extrovert, but it’s a big mistake to ignore introverts. In fact, Pollard says Big Spaceship is filled with introverts who don’t do loud meetings: “Loudness doesn’t indicate anything; making stuff does.”

(Thanks to Ryan Frank of the University of Oregon for tweeting a link to the Pollard post.)

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About adviserdavid

Student media director, Georgia Southern University

Posted on April 29, 2013, in Leadership. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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