Survey: Most City Editors At Least Somewhat Satisfied With Their Jobs

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By: Joe Strupp

A survey of newspaper city editors, among the most stressful mid-manager posts, reveals that most indicate at least some satisfaction with their ever-demanding jobs, and believe that they do a good job of encouraging reporters and advising on stories.

The study by a Butler University professor found that only 21% of those surveyed expressed low satisfaction, while 30.8% said they were satisfied, 11.7% said they were very satisfied and 36.7 claimed to be somewhat satisfied.

But Charles St. Cyr, the assistant professor of journalism who conducted the survey, indicated that other feedback from those same editors revealed concerns about worker productivity and news quality. “City editors are critical of what they perceive to be low reporter productivity and lack of quality in local news writing,” a release about the survey stated. “They’re also unhappy with reporters for how they respond to new procedures and ideas introduced by senior newsroom managers.”

St. Cyr adds that low satisfaction in such jobs is not a surprise given data about overall workplace attitudes. “Business management literature emphasizes … that very high job satisfaction is not highly probable in any work environment where negativity defines the organizational culture,” he stated. “Newsrooms have been found to be negative work environments in which complaints based on negative perceptions prevail to reduce stress associated with deadline and other publication pressure.”

St. Cyr, a 20-year newspaper veteran and former night city editor at the Arizona Daily Star, surveyed 303 city editors at various daily newspapers during October and November 2006. He found that those who had job satisfaction “generally felt more favorably about their relationship with their superiors, their own level of authority and their newsroom budget,” the report said. “For city editors on the low end of the job satisfaction scale, perception of reporter performance was the strongest predictor of low job satisfaction.

“City editors tended to rate themselves most highly for encouraging reporters to develop their own story ideas, and they rated their staffs most highly for generating their own stories,” the survey added. “The city editors surveyed said they compliment reporters for good work, try to be sensitive about their reporters’ feelings, insist that editing changes are explained and rarely, if ever, directly criticize reporters or tell them what to do.”

But the survey found that city editors regularly exclude reporters from decision-making and do not often seek their input.

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