I’ve been thinking about my former colleagues so much these past few months. The challenges of covering the pandemic alone would be enough to have you consider what working a desk job for a bank might be like.
But then, George Floyd was killed. And the world— which was tilting on its axis already, has fallen off the rails. You are juggling remote work, trying to keep people safe and covering the most consequential demonstrations and anger of your professional lives. You are dealing with issues and decisions that you couldn’t possibly have imagined at the start of 2020. And you know that each decision you make can have ramifications beyond your intentions. You have employees who were already fragile from the pandemic, who are now wrestling with their own feelings on race and their place in the world and the workplace. And you’re managing those fears remotely.
But you have this.
Why do I say so? Because THIS is what you’ve been training for your whole professional lives.
Why did you become a journalist? A pretty heady question that you really haven’t had time to consider these past few months or weeks. But I’d like you to take a moment, close your eyes, and think about that question. Because the answer can help guide you.
If you’re like me, you were drawn to journalism because it was about truth, untold stories, holding the powerful accountable and moving people to action.
When you first thought about becoming a journalist, did you envision that a good percentage of your day as a newsroom leader would be spent dealing with budgets and personnel matters? Probably not. You are a decision maker by training— the best in your newsroom or one of the best for sure. And your guiding hand and heart are what’s needed now.
It’s time to make sure you are the hand that guides your coverage not only for today but for the next year. That you reach deep into your vast well of knowledge about your community, your world and your organization, and you do what you do best when you’re putting a plan together: analyze the facts and lay out a roadmap. We do this all the time when we put together those action plans to improve our reach to the audience. Take those same skills and discipline and apply them to this crisis.
What do we know to be true? What do we need to do today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year? How will we do it? Who are the stakeholders— in our newsroom, in our community, in our country? How do we tap into their knowledge to guide us? What can we do as an organization to help the community heal? Are we using all of our resources and connections? What investigative projects are waiting to be told? What kind of resources will I need to get them done?
I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know in your bones. But when you’re fighting a battle each day just to get to the next one, it’s sometimes hard to remember the big picture.
You’ve got this. You’ve trained for it your whole professional lives.