All newsrooms have limits to their resources. There are only so many journalists, only so many dollars, only so many hours, etc. In this relative way, we all begin at the same place. We all need more resources because we all see so much more to be done.
The idea then is to operate on two levels: one that absolutely makes the most effective use of existing resources, and the other that aims toward growth. The growth that follows commitment and success.
The two levels can co-exist in positivity, provided there is not a huge gap between them. By performing optimally given current resources, the ND can better argue for — and better guarantee — greater service with greater resources.
Setting current and future expectations is a continuing process that cycles through the following phases. Each is instrumental to the evolutionary cycle of your newsroom:
- Vision & Mission — Allow high aspirations in principle. Set out the vision of public service broadcasting. Connect the dots between what you come to work to do… and why it matters.
- Goals for Department & Staff — Provide the quantitative and qualitative measurements of success. Aim high but identify what it takes to stay within your means. Be so precise that all can see what measurable difference your resources make in your output.
- Measure & Maximize Efficiency — Work hard. Apply best practices for quality work, satisfied employees, and meaningful public service. Use resources wisely, creatively. Measure against goals.
- Reap Rewards & Grow Strategically — When the opportunity comes around, celebrate achievements. Cooperate in fundraising to extract your return on investment. Ask for the fiscal support that accrues to excellent service. Reinvest in the people and the product to grow even greater.
It takes time and sometimes a leap of faith to close the gap between high aspirations and low resources. The steps above go better with a confident attitude. And remember that news is about credibility and spine and respect before it is about ratings and dollars.
News Directors need time and support to lead (or participate) in this process. The more deliberate, documented and shared it becomes, the more the entire team propels it.
While one can only squeeze so much quality (and quantity) from a given set of resources, the ND is in a position to make the most of those, and from there, to explain the need for more. After all, which aspirations would you rather reach for? High or low?