REPORTERS GRADE THEIR EDITORS

By: Joe Strupp

ASNE Releases Results Of Newsroom Survey


WASHINGTON – Newsroom employees say that top editors are too
removed from the needs of reporters, offer too little feedback,
and don’t communicate effectively, according to a survey released
Tuesday at the American Society of Newspaper Editors conference
in Washington, D.C.

The study, which polled more than 1,100 editors, reporters, copy
editors, photographers, and other newspaper workers at 21 large
and small newspapers, did give top editors high marks for
journalistic credibility and fairness, but claimed most were out
of touch with reporters and other rank-and-file employees.

“A clear and consistent gripe is that no one recognizes or
responds to a regular need for recognition,” said Sharon Peters,
an adjunct at Northwestern University’s Media Management Center,
which conducted the survey of 1,151 for ASNE. “The over-arching
theme is that they are too removed.”

The study was released during a lengthy seminar on newsroom
leadership, which also included tips from a leadership consultant
and several ideas from a panel of editors who discussed the
topic.

Among the key findings in the study: 48% of respondents said
editors were very effective or somewhat effective at keeping up
with employee concerns, compared to 52% who said they were not
very effective or not effective at all.

In other areas, some 57% of those polled said top editors were
not very effective or not effective at all at ensuring managers
were skilled, 51% said the same thing about their ability to keep
abreast of employee concerns, and 49% believed they did not do
enough to encourage open debate.

Forty-six percent of respondents believed top editors did a poor
job of training to address staff deficiencies, while 34% believed
they did not place people in jobs tailored to their skills or
interests. Editors did receive high marks, however, for their
ability to celebrate newsroom victories, seek reader input,
define priorities, and balance the bottom line with good
journalism.

When asked how their experiences in the newsroom would affect
their future career, 54% said they were not sure if they would
remain in journalism, while 68% said they would choose journalism
again if given the option.

During the panel discussion that ended the seminar, editors
offered their own tips for improving morale and leadership
through direct actions. Elizabeth Cook, editor of the
Salisbury (N.C.) Post, said she had held a staff
retreat that included a questionnaire seeking input from staff
for improvements.

“The answers ran the gamut from more money to more Post-it
notes,” Cook said. “But the majority said to let them do what
they were hired to do and give more feedback.”

Dean Baquet, managing editor at The Los Angeles Times,
said he tries to spend more time with reporters on story ideas
and offer positive feedback when warranted. “I try to find
something in the paper I like everyday and tell the person who
did it,” he told the audience. “I also will err on the side of
making time for a reporter.”

Sandra Mims Rowe, editor of The Oregonian in Portland,
said editors need to hold down their tempers and not take out
anger in the newsroom. “It’s horribly self-indulgent,” she said.
“Let someone else throw a temper-tantrum. It’s not for us to
do.”



Joe Strupp (jstrupp@editorandpublisher.com) is an associate editor for E&P.



Copyright 2001, Editor & Publisher.

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