Quality is essential in news work. It is synonymous with accuracy and fairness. It implies smart story selection and masterful crafting.
It depends on people and systems.
A News Director assures quality by
- Defining excellence
- Practicing excellence
- Monitoring excellence
How Do We Define Excellence?
We start by talking about it. In meetings, in offices, at lunch, over beer. We discuss what makes a good story. We say what failed. We try to articulate it down to the smallest element. We’re obsessed with excellence!
Planning is an opportunity to define quality. We set goals we think will deliver excellence. We appropriate funding we think will deliver excellence.
We train for it. Much of the quality we seek comes by developing skills and abilities. Training can be the key to unlocking greater excellence.
We flag it and we celebrate it. Winning awards is a time-honored way of pointing at quality — especially when the judging is strong and the competition fierce. By reinforcing those traits that win awards, we steer future work to similar high standards.
How Do We Practice Excellence?
A primary method of quality assurance in news work is in the editing. Editing is not just a review at the end of the reporter’s process. Editing is an end-to-end, organizing role by someone other than the reporter telling the story.
At the front end, it is the assignment editing function — clearly defining a focused story idea and helping shape the story with proper sourcing, use of audio, and depth of research.
Along the way, it is helping the reporter adjust the story plan as necessary. And, before air, it is the complete review of the story before committing to a final version.
This practice includes high expectations of the reporter, and the final presenter, and anyone else who touches the story along the way.
Quality is only assured by practicing proper procedures on a consistent basis.
How Do We Monitor Excellence?
We listen and we judge what we hear on air.
Ultimately it is what serves the listener that defines excellence — and so we are attentive to listener response.
Apart from listener response (which is often unknown to us) we examine both what the listener heard and what the listener did not hear. We note what made it to air and what was ruled out. This tells us much about our editing process.
We give generous amounts of constructive feedback. We hold listening sessions and go back over scripts and audio.
Quality can rarely be reduced to a formula — but it can be quantified. You can grade stories and you can rate employee performance.
In this way, we renew the cycle of defining quality.