How do you create a diverse, inspiring newsroom? How do you attract the most talented young journalists … and then hold on to them? In their upcoming session at RTDNA22, Andrew Heyward and Tina McDuffie will explore these questions with newsroom leaders.
“If you just want to hear another lecture about what you shouldn't be doing, this isn't the session for you,” Heyward said. “This is going to be an interactive conversation, looking for fresh ideas.”
Both veteran journalists, Heyward is the former president of CBS News and currently assists local TV stations with digital strategy. McDuffie is an award winning television and radio reporter and host in Boston. Currently, she is the host of “Local, USA,” a national, half-hour news program on the WORLD Channel network.
The two journalists met through a two-part story Heyward developed for the Knight-Cronkite News Lab. During their session at RTDNA22, McDuffie and Heyward will lead a discussion based on the key theme of the report: the recruitment and retention crisis in local TV newsrooms.
“What’s the biggest threat to the future of local TV newsrooms?” the report read. “The long-term challenge may be how to build a sustainable model around a new generation of consumers who will never watch a linear newscast at 5, 6, or 11. But news directors and their bosses are increasingly concerned about a more immediate problem: the pipeline of talent for both sides of the camera is drying up.”
RTDNA22, September 14-16 in Indianapolis, is all about Trust and Team. Heyward and McDuffie’s session will engage with newsroom leaders who want to attract and hold on to the most talented journalists: “How to get ’em and keep ’em.”
What do you plan to discuss at RTDNA22 and what will your session look like?
Heyward: There's a crisis in that the recruitment pipeline for local stations has ruptured at the bottom. So it used to be that you would recruit people to small stations, they would get experience (and) then move up the ladder. People are not as attracted to local TV news as they once were for a number of reasons. The net result is that there's a shortage of new talent. And partly because of that pressure, people are leaving, people are getting burned out. … This all comes at a time when there's a reassessment of work life balance and work culture anyway. I think the other huge issue, which Tina is a terrific expert on, is that there's understandable belated pressure not only to have more diverse newsrooms, but to profit from diversity. What I mean by that is not financially, but really to use diversity as the rich source of insight and better reporting that it can represent.
What I hope to get out of our session is a candid discussion with the people in the room. What have they seen in their own newsrooms, as not only a problem but as potential solutions? Tina and I want to lead a highly interactive session from which people can come away with ideas that they can try at home.
McDuffie: (I’m) definitely hoping that we can have an honest, frank discussion about what is going on in local newsrooms and how we can make it better.
I like chocolate chip ice cream, but if chocolate chip ice cream is not available, I can have vanilla, I can have strawberry, I'm okay with butter pecan, right? So this is the way we need to look at the options of people who are looking to get into this industry and people who are in the industry looking to advance. They may not look like someone who's familiar to you or who you're necessarily comfortable with but can they do the job? Are they able to do the job? And what kind of asset would they be to this newsroom?
I think that this newsroom crisis gives us an opportunity to consider those people, to look at those credentials, to reach out to people, to build relationships and start to not only build pipelines, but hire people at higher levels as well. We don't want to just have people of color at the bottom rung of a newsroom, because you know, oftentimes, you don't have as much of a powerful voice at the bottom. So if you have more people who are executive producers, producers, news directors, then we can incorporate some diverse storytelling across the board from the bottom all the way up to the top.
I'm hoping that we will have a great interactive conversation in September about how we might do that because I love journalism, Andrew loves it, and everyone attending loves the industry. So we're hoping to make it better.
How will your different experiences as people and journalists be brought together during your session at RTDNA22?
Heyward: First of all, we're different generations, which is very helpful. Tina also brings the perspective of a journalist of color. While she's worked on both sides of the aisle, she’s in public media now and I was always on the commercial side of things. She's closer to being a working practitioner, dealing directly with these issues as the host of (her) show. So I think we bring different points of view.
We came up in different ways. I think we share ideals and hopes for what journalism can be. But … we took different paths up the mountain. I hope that we can say something interesting about those paths that brings out great stories from the room.
McDuffie: I agree. The energy is people who are very different, saying the same thing. We have the same idea — or some ideas — in terms of how we can make newsrooms better. If you think about a newsroom, you would think of Andrew as the news director or the vice president, and I'm an anchor/reporter, so that's really who people are going to be hearing from when they come and listen to our session.
Why is talking about this with news directors and leaders important?
McDuffie: Well, we want journalism to be better, right? We think journalism rocks, but it could rock on and it could rock harder. So that's what we're trying to do is push the carriage further and I think it's really important to hear different perspectives, new ideas, and most importantly, be able to come to a session where you're not just listening to a lecture and then (being) like, “OK, let me go off to the next thing.” We really want people to engage, and we want people to engage in a way that maybe a news director who's in our session has never heard the perspective of.
Heyward: We don't claim to have all the answers but we certainly want to have a discussion where we raise the right questions. With any luck, some great answers will come out of it.
Learn more about RTDNA22 and register here.