Whether you actively manage the “culture” of your newsroom, it does have one. We encourage you to think about it, talk about it and steer it.
Your newsroom culture may be hard to define in concrete terms because it is the sum of many influences and may fluctuate over time. You can attempt to name it in your vision and mission statements, but it really shows up in your daily doing.
Let’s emphasize several aspects of culture that a News Director can manage.
- Constructive Critique. This attribute is all about setting the bar high to drive up the quality of work. It looks to improve individual and team performance. Here are some ways in which you promote this Culture of Constructive Critique:
- Insist that all news coverage gets an edit
- Provide daily feedback on the previous day’s work
- Encourage open dialogue (and don’t squelch respectful arguments) among team members that challenges one another to succeed
- Schedule group listening sessions where individuals playback their work and discuss strengths and weaknesses
- Use formal and informal performance reviews to identify areas requiring training or development
- Team Trust. Think about the honesty and openness of your newsroom communication. Act in ways that promote healthy interpersonal relations.
- Set the example by treating all staff with professional respect, loyalty and generosity
- Find the best way to get issues “on the table” so they don’t fester
- Flag and reward outward examples of meritorious teamwork – such as going the extra mile, helping without being asked, sharing knowledge, etc
- Apologize for mistakes and promise to learn and do better
- Individual Accountability. We don’t all have to think and act the same way but insofar as we share a mission, we need all individuals to give it their best.
- Set the example by doing what you say you will do
- Flag and reward examples of frugality, productivity, creative problem-solving or any other individual effort that gets the job done faster, better or helps stretch limited resources
- Establish policies that help define minimum levels of productivity (or optimal levels) and hold people accountable for them
- Delegate responsibilities to give staff members opportunities to step up and lead
You might wish to add cultural dimensions of your own. Perhaps “positivity” is crucial if you sense a negative mood. Or “confidence” is something you want your growing team to exhibit. Others might include “aggressive coverage,” or “in-depth enterprise,” to emphasize journalistic goals.
Again, the thing about workplace culture is that it exists in the people who share it. Upper managers may strongly influence it. Long time staffers tend to be keepers of it. The stories we tell are transmitters of it. And sometimes it can takes years to modify it.
As News Director, you will shape it whether you engage the culture or not. We encourage you to tackle it head on.