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10 takeaways for newsroom leaders from the Power Shift Summit 2.0 Report

March 20, 2019 01:00

“If we do this right, every voice is heard,” moderator and project leader Jill Geisler said setting rules of the road for the Power Shift Summit 2.0 at the start of the daylong gathering of newsroom leaders this January.

One year after the first Power Shift Summit, which focused on addressing the workplace harassment issues the #MeToo movement brought to the forefront, the follow up event focused on the underlying workplace cultures that contribute to harassment. While it showed how far many newsrooms have come, it also showed how far we still have to go in truly ensuring every voice is heard.

Today, the Freedom Forum’s Power Shift Project released its report on the second summit, saying newsrooms today demonstrate “not yet enough real commitment to training, transparency and transformational measures.”
Newsroom initiatives in the wake of #MeToo and the high-profile ousting of several high profile news names have primarily focused on better addressing illegal behaviors, but, multiple participants pointed out, we need to be mindful in our newsrooms of not just what is illegal but what it wrong.

By the same token, experts from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), zero tolerance policies are not the answer either, since they can chills reporting of misconduct, and, while all misconduct should be addressed in workplaces, not all misconduct reaches the same level.

Rather, harassment has to be treated holistically, including sexual harassment, and race, religion or age based discrimination at work, and requires systemic solutions across the board, said Chai Feldblum, former EEOC commissioner. Workplaces can have the best policies and procedures but if you don’t have the right culture, it doesn’t matter.

Feldblum says leaders must do three things:
  1. Believe something is a problem
  2. Articulate values and expectations
  3. Take action
Feldblum urged employers to ensure first-line supervisors – for newsrooms, that means not only news directors but also producers, anchors and editors – are trained on issues of identifying and responding to behaviors that create a hostile work environment.

For many newsrooms, it also means shifting the conversation from punitive to proactive. That’s why, at RTDNA, we’re talking more about things like caring for our teams’ mental health, valuing diverse voices and supporting working moms.

From the first moments a new team member is hired, here are ten ways news leaders can work toward a more collaborative, constructive newsroom:
  1. Hire for collaborative skills, not just technical ones.
  2. Communicate cultural expectations to new employees, including what the employee should expect from the newsroom and what do to if expectations aren’t met.
  3. Bake measures of work environment and collaboration into evaluations. Are employees open to learning, willing to train others and providing good customer service? These measures help identify issues early and prevent escalation.
  4. Build paths for advancement to guide more diverse leaders into management and decision making roles.
  5. Provide bystander training so those who see inappropriate behavior in the workplace are empowered to act.
  6. Try non-traditional training techniques like improvisation to help the news team prepare for difficult conversations.
  7. Consider peer support groups for interns, managers, aspiring leaders and others.
  8. Start from an assumption of transparency when communicating about culture issues inside and outside the newsroom
  9. Hold office hours, open management/staff discussions or other mechanisms for listening and feedback.
  10. Provide the newsroom with regular updates on workplace culture initiatives.
Workplace Integrity Train-the-Trainer Workshops  |  Washington, D.C.
Thanks to a grant from CBS, the Freedom Forum Institute’s newly developed training to combat sexual harassment and discrimination in newsrooms is now free. The research-based curriculum focuses on developing critical thinking, courageous conversations and cultures of respect and trust. Upcoming workshop dates are March 26-27, June 12-13, August 15-16 and Oct. 16-17. Learn more and apply here.


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