We’ve all heard the horror stories about toxicity in the workplace, and newsrooms have been no exception. At this year’s Excellence in Journalism conference, former news director Kevin Benz is giving newsroom leaders, colleagues, and audiences the tools necessary to change the culture for the better.
After receiving positive feedback for his popular presentation in 2016, “No More Assholes in the Newsroom,” which addressed ways to deal with negativity and create a more positive working environment, Benz is returning to this year’s EIJ conference in Baltimore with “No More Assholes Part 2: The coward’s guide to conflict in the newsroom.”
“No More Assholes Part 2” will be presented by Benz and The Carole Kneeland Project, an organization dedicated to ensuring “ethics and excellence in local journalism.” The presentation seeks to educate audiences about the toxicity of newsroom culture and ways to mitigate it and report it, especially in the era of recent movements such as #MeToo. Benz thinks it is important to have these conversations now more than ever.
“Over the last few months I’ve thought and thought about what kind of message we need to send...the issues surrounding how women and people of color are treated in newsrooms has come to the forefront,” Benz says.
The presentation will offer specific tools and strategies not only for those who have experienced harassment or disrespect in their work environment, but also for newsroom leaders and their colleagues discussing how to create a safe, respectful environment that allows everyone to do their best work. Too often, Benz says, the newsroom prefers to let it go unchecked.
“It is not okay to be an innocent bystander any longer,” says Benz. “We have to learn to back up the victim and take on the bully. And we have to begin building safe places for victims of this disrespect and the witnesses to eport it.”
For Benz, accountability is key when it comes to managing conflict in a newsroom environment, which can often become intense and highly stressful. Benz thinks that it is crucial for leaders to hold everyone to this standard.
“We have to treat respect in the newsroom as a core competency for every employee. We have to judge them not just as the journalist they are, but at how good of a newsroom citizen they are as well.”
With this forthcoming presentation, Benz hopes to expand on ways for managers to improve newsroom culture and discourage bad behavior in the workplace, while also taking a moment to speak about harassment and what it means to be a bystander in light of the #MeToo movement and challenges of those in the field of journalism who have spoken out.
“Newsrooms have a terrible reputation,” Benz says. “This has got to become unacceptable.”
With this workshop, Benz hopes to provide some ways for newsrooms to change the negative reputation they have received. While this particular presentation is part of EIJ’s newsroom management track, all attendees will learn valuable strategies on how to deal with newsroom assholes, whether they are a leader, a witness, or journalists dealing with harassment themselves.
Excellence in Journalism is presented in partnership with the Society of Professional Journalists Sept. 27-29, 2018, in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Through August 7, registration is just $230 for professional members of RTDNA or SPJ.