News Directors should not confuse the “editorial firewall” with a “psychic barrier” that can isolate the news department from the rest of the station.
Independence is a key ingredient in editorial decision-making, but interdependence is the key to excellent station relations. That takes communication and understanding.
News Directors are wise to build personal-professional relationships with the managers and directors of their institution. They do so not to ingratiate themselves for their particular interests, but because the organization will function better when all the employees are in alignment with their shared mission and priorities.
When the ND is engaged with various managers and departments, the ND is better able to help the station define its journalistic objectives. For example, when an entire station is clear on its devotion to news as a public service, it may need the News Director to help articulate that objective as part of a mission statement or strategic plan.
News Directors have so many tasks associated with just getting the news done well that they are understandably reluctant to take on broader station initiatives. After all, they rightly argue, the on-air product is the key to fulfilling station mission and powering the programming engine. Yet the newsroom leader is too crucial to the station to be confined to the newsroom alone.
When and where possible, the ND is involved in planning or budget setting, or helping other managers understand what the newsroom needs to succeed, or helping build the station’s reputation in the community.
Be accessible. Share your successes with the entire station. You can assert editorial independence while still building positive relations.