Being a news director was never my plan

February 1, 2018 11:00

I never wanted to be a news director.

To me, being a news reporter is the coolest job in the world. It’s all I ever really wanted to do and I’ve been a part of some incredible stories. But, when I moved into management 10 years ago, I found that I love mentoring journalists and strategizing beyond a single story. Through that, others saw in me something that I had not seen in myself. Still, being a news director was never my plan.

Then came the school shooting.
Prepare your path to the top newsroom job at our 2019 conference, Sept. 5-7 in San Antonio. Register by August 12, or by June 27 to save.

This tragedy at a local high school turned into a day of wall-to-wall coverage. I watched our journalists report urgently, but sensitively. I stayed up that night thinking of how to responsibly cover the story in the days to come. I also worried about how to support our staff through what can be emotionally and physically draining coverage. Most of all, I watched how our viewers turned to us in a time of fear and grief and I was reminded of the importance of what we do for our communities.

I applied for the job the next day. Two months later, I’m starting to settle in.

As I moved into this role, it was important for me to have a clear vision about where we needed to go and how to get there. Newsrooms often get lost in the day-to-day coverage and don’t take the time to step back and see the bigger picture. You can’t control the breaking news or the other inevitable chaos, so I want to control the things I can control and have some guiding principles. I laid out those goals for our team so that everyone knows the expectations; I also made sure each goal had a deadline assigned and someone on our staff to be responsible for those deadlines. To make sure those goals are top of mind, I put them all on a massive white board I had installed in my office (my staff will tell you, I’m a little obsessed with that white board.) Is it working? I think so. We’re getting there.

In these two months, I’ve been challenged in ways I both expected and didn’t expect. I’m looking at financials, which can be intimidating for someone who spent her career doing “journalist math.” I’m learning about the responsibilities I have to work with other departments in the building and determine what all of them need from me. I have to constantly remind myself that these are my decisions to make now, I can’t wait for someone else to say yes or no.

Most challenging for me: I carry the emotional weight that comes with managing people and I care deeply for their well-being. As I laid out my goals for them, I told them of one of my favorite quotes and something I’m using to guide my transition: “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” Our jobs are stressful, but we don’t have to be martyrs for news. I want them to work hard while they’re here, but always find time to recharge and connect with the things that really matter. That’s something we all could work on.

I’ve struggled a bit not being as involved in the day-to-day news content. Fortunately, I know I can count on my experienced management team to make decisions when I can’t. That trust and that dependability make rest of my job so much easier.

I’m new to this, but I’m glad I took the leap. I’m fortunate to work for a general manager and for a company that are incredibly supportive. Whether it’s a school shooting or a report on a city budget, we have an awesome responsibility not only to report the truth, but to uncover it as well. I love this industry and am humbled to have a part in shaping its future.