What does it take to make a career of leading newsrooms?

June 20, 2018 01:30

So, you’ve got the skills you need to run a successful newsroom. You’re in the news director role or on your way there, maybe as an unexpected leader or your natural next move.

Now, what does it take to make a career of leading newsrooms?

Get experience with new news skills

Always be learning. “You always want to stay marketable,” says Iris Sierra, Regional Director, Human Resources for Fox Television Stations. That means not just keeping up with emerging trends and technologies, but staying ahead. With a current skillset, news managers can better give constructive criticism to their teams.

We talked to four news executives who know a thing or two about recruiting to find out more about emerging news management needs. The consistent theme: Digital.

More than ever, newsroom managers need to “know how to communicate with digital audiences and analyze online engagement,” says Janae Gravitz, TEGNA Director of Talent Acquisition.

And that means more than a cursory understanding. According to Matt Miller, Talent Acquisition News Leader, Local Media for the E.W. Scripps Company, tomorrow’s news managers need to be able to think strategically about different digital platforms, their audiences and content for each.

“One of the best candidates I ever interviewed talked about the station’s digital platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, live stream) as being separate channels of the station,” he says. “You need to be able to effectively communicate a very strong digital plan.”

Still working on your digital skills? That’s okay. As platforms mature and audiences change, digital skills are constantly evolving, and the key for news managers is to keep learning.

“We’re more interested in potential than experience and are looking for leaders who are always learning, who know how to motivate their teams and creatively solve problems,” says Gravitz.


Show you can adapt

Creative problem solving means adapting.

“Everyone in the business needs to be willing to adapt, period.  News managers have to think broadly and creatively to support and monitor multiple platforms at one time,” says Barbara Maushard, Senior Vice President of News for Hearst Television.

Today, that means adapting to new digital outlets. And tomorrow?

As a good leader, you’re always looking ahead. That means identifying problems and gaps and knowing how to adapt, says Sierra.

It means being open to feedback and change, says Gravitz.

And it means “having vision for the big picture,” says Miller. “You must be able to plan, and show that you can build a team, and that you can replicate that success or take it to the next level.”
 

Learn the business

Don’t just learn your market or the company where you work. Get a picture of the business overall and where it’s headed (RTDNA’s weekly newslettter is a good place to start). Chances are, you’ll work at more than one company and, even if you’re staying put, it pays to know what others are doing successfully.

“Being a student of the business and its constant evolution is key to success,” says Maushard.

According to Miller, “the two biggest areas that stations will focus on in the future” are enterprise and investigative stories with “deep local impact.” Beyond news judgement, news managers “have to know how to set up systems and processes that will teach your reporters how to dig up fresh, new, lead enterprise ideas” to remain competitive. Miller says sourcing investigative stories is becoming a more and more essential skill for future news leaders.


Know who you need to know

Even if not actively job hunting, newsroom managers should always be actively networking. Know the business and its players.

Staying on top of who is trying new things not only helps you learn and stay competitive at your current station, but can also open doors for you, too.

“Get exposed to the right people. Build relationships. Make us wish you were available, then we can keep track of your progress,” says Maushard.

Get to know other news directors, executives, reporters and, yes, recruiters.

“You want to network as much as possible to ensure you know what’s out there which can only make you that much more valuable,” says Sierra.

Where can you find the news leaders you need to know?

Nothing beats the connections developed in person.

Join your peers in Baltimore this September 27-29 at our annual meeting. It’s the only meeting of its kind for news leaders, with digital and leadership training designed by news managers and three days of opportunities to connect with the people you need to know in ever-valuable hallway meetings, on the Expo floor, at the bar or over coffee.
 
Thanks to Janae Gravitz, Director of Talent Acquisition, TEGNA; Barbara Maushard, Senior Vice President, News, Hearst Television; Matt Miller, Talent Acquisition News Leader, Local Media |The E.W. Scripps Company and Iris Sierra, Regional Director, Human Resources, Fox Television Stations for sharing insights into the future of news leadership.

Excellence in Journalism is presented in partnership with the Society of Professional Journalists Sept. 27-29 in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Through July 25, registration is just $230 for professional members. See who will be recruiting at EIJ here.