Home > Uncategorized > OK, I Need Some Help on This One

OK, I Need Some Help on This One

-first posted at RTDNA.org on October 20, 2009

When it comes to newsroom management, I’m not a good communicator.  My employees know it and I know it.  I know why that is, and maybe I’m just kidding myself, but I think a lot of other managers are in the same boat. The reason for me is that there seems to be so much for me to handle personally I don’t have time to keep everyone else up to date. And it’s only gotten worse. Back when I only had three newscasts a day, it wasn’t that bad. I seemed to have slow parts of the day and week where I had time to visit with people and keep them in the loop. Now we’re publishing 24/7. Every manager is driven by a looming deadline always just minutes away from whatever time it is now. And at least in my case, that sure doesn’t leave much time for thoughtful communication with the staff.

Now, my headline says I need some help with this one, and that’s exactly what I mean. These blogs have been a way to share some knowledge and opinions with readers at RTDNA.org. But I have to tell you, I don’t have a good idea here. I am really stumped when it comes to figuring out how to keep connected with everyone in my newsroom. I’ve been on the lookout for ideas and now I’m hoping that if I plant some seeds of what I’ve observed, you can water them with your own ideas.

Here are a couple of examples that I know are working out there. One is amazingly low-tech considering the organization that’s making it work. The other is high-tech and new and a bit untested. I like them both, and I’m interested to see if I can adapt these or any of your ideas to work in my newsroom.

The first example of throw out is at NBC News in New York. Thanks to Steve Capus and Lloyd Siegel, I was able to spend some time observing the NBC News editorial staff in action.  Lloyd told me back in the summer about what is simply called the “Share” meeting, a conference room gathering at 11:45 every morning to make the circuit of every platform NBC News operates. Last week, while in New York for the Murrow awards dinner, I had the chance to sit in on the share meeting. On the third floor there in 30 Rock, 29 people gathered around a big wooden table, each equipped with nothing more high tech than pad and paper. About three more people joined by conference telephone. The meeting began with the flagship broadcast, NBC Nightly News, sharing its five or six top stories planned for later that day. The button moved on to MSNBC daytime followed by MSNBC primetime. An editor for each spoke up about stories, guests, and hot topics. The meeting then featured tomorrow’s Today Show, then what NBC News Channel was feeding the affiliates, and on to the newest platform for NBC News, the Weather Channel and its eye on weather news around the world.  Things moved quickly, barely taking two or three minutes per platform. MSNBC.com shared the top 10 stories on the site by page view, giving an instant focus group of what online readers wanted most. Telemundo phoned in discussing its Spanish-language coverage, followed by CNBC and a quick update of the markets and other business news. David Wilson, editor of TheGrio.com, NBC News’ web platform aimed at the African-American audience, rounded out discussions of coverage across platforms. Then the meeting wrapped up — barely 15 minutes to cover 10 platforms on the air, on the web, and around the world.

Sitting in the corner and watching it all, I was incredibly impressed with the efficiency of what many would see as an old-fashioned exercise. There’s still something to be said for coming together face-to-face to literally share what we know. It didn’t matter that nearly 30 people filled this conference room, with more phoning in from across the country, all just to spend a quarter hour focused on meshing the gears at NBC news. The efficiency was evident in the incredible volume of information passed so quickly to so many.

On the other end of the country, a different approach is underway. This takes the literal face-to-face meeting and makes it a virtual get-together. Autumn Foster, the interim executive producer of the program “Keep It Local” at KOIN-TV in Portland, is using Google to act as her third-floor conference table. Foster runs it all through Google Calendar, a shared online scheduling program that allows multiple users to access and enter data at any time from anywhere. Google Documents helps personnel in the field move data back and forth, often via wireless device. Foster says the use of Google as a virtual meeting space is brand new. She has high hopes for it to be a way to repair communication breakdowns that happens so often in newsrooms. And so do I.

So there are my two examples. How about yours? What’s working in your shop? I’m looking for anything you think helps more people in your newsroom communicate what’s important. Maybe you have a shop where the same meeting approach has worked for 30 years. I’d like to hear about it. Maybe you’re trying something as new is the Google experiment in Portland. Share that and let the rest of us figure out if we can use it in our newsrooms. How can you share these ideas? It’s easy. Just go to the bottom of this blog and make a comment in the comment box. Those posts will show up as a chain past the end of this article. Visitors to RTDNA.org will be able to read those, pick a few that they like, and maybe post a few ideas of their own.

I really hope we can begin some sharing here. Blogs are often one-way communication experiences–even though they appear on the multidirectional web. Don’t let this blog be just from me to you. Write back and let’s get some ideas flowing.

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