This is not an exit

Cultivate a philosophy of public service in your newsroom

In Uncategorized on March 5, 2011 at 7:31 pm

Note: This is the first in a series of convention notes from the Associated Collegiate Press’ conference in Los Angeles March 3-6.

Serve yourself, serve your staff and serve the public: That’s what journalists do.

This is probably the most valuable take-away I got from my time at the Associated Collegiate Press’ conference in Los Angeles this past weekend. And that was just the first day.

I’m not saying that the rest of the weekend was for naught. Quite the contrary, actually. The rest of the weekend was valuable, it’s just that Mark Witherspoon, adviser for the Iowa State Daily, was one of the most inspiring instructors I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet. And, as you may know, I work with some damn good journalism teachers.

Ever since I began my foray into media studies, I’ve held the belief that journalism is one of the ultimate public services. During my time as a reporter intern at The News-Register in McMinnville, my editors emphasized the importance of speaking up for the little guy.

Witherspoon only drove this further.

He told us that our newspapers have the power to influence their communities. He said that with great power … well, you were accountable for a lot with that power — I was just waiting for him to finish the quote with “comes great responsibility.”

Much of the first session I attended Thursday — Friday and Saturday sessions were an hour each, while the first day we had a marathon six-hour session — was spent teaching us how important it was to instill this philosophy in our editors and reporters.

In order to do so, it’s essential to see yourself as resource for your staff.

Although Witherspoon said that no one on a staff is irreplaceable — the paper will be published regardless of who quits or gets fired — he stressed how imperative it is to invest as much into the front end of the process in order to set people up for success.

Tell your staff how much you appreciate their efforts. Make sure your editors know what they’ve accomplished. Take them out to lunch, pull them into your office or have personal conferences with them when they’re excelling as well as when they’re starting to slide.

Create an environment where the mindset is “What can I do to help?” There is always something to do in a newsroom; cultivate an environment where reporters and editors do everything they can to help each other succeed.

Running The Torch is my opportunity to prove my worth as a journalist and a leader. Under my direction, the paper has increased its credibility as a news source — instead of focusing on club fairs and ogre statues, we’re investigating budgets and public safety concerns. This has been my focus from day one.

But what does my staff want? What would they like to get out of the time they spend working on their college paper? In order to be an effective leader, you need to keep in mind that the people working for you have goals and aspirations.

Help them make progress toward success and you’re guaranteed to cultivate a team of people who are fiercely loyal and just as dedicated as you are because they’re also getting what they want.

  1. This is great Eder. You were able to capture what he was teaching as so well. This conference has been wonderful.

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