24 January 2003
Personnel Management & Human Resources:
Small Newspapers Can Benefit from Newsroom Management

Donald Fry, a freelance writing coach, gives his views on newsroom management. He warns about business values overlapping journalistic values in the absence of newsroom management.

APN: How can even a small newspaper benefit from newsroom management? (A
paper with for example 5 employees.)
Donald Fry: Any organization can benefit from newsroom management, indeed
cannot function without it. Otherwise, newsroom employees will quit for
higher pay and better hours and less risk. Newsrooms need leadership and
inspiration, not just managing.

APN: Why is newsroom management an important part of the general management of a newspaper?
Donald Fry: The newsroom must be managed as well as, or even better than,
the general management of the newspaper; otherwise, business values will
displace journalistic values, and the newspaper will turn into a mere PR

What aspect of newsroom management do you find particularly
Donald Fry: Feedback. The best feedback helps writers become their own
editors. One way a good teaching editor helps writers internalize principles
is by asking them to repeat the feedback they've just received. "What's your
understanding of how this would work on that meeting story?". Good feedback
flows in both directions. The best writing happens when editors constantly
solicit their writers' opinions and are so non-threatening that they get
absolutely honest responses. A climate of fear kills feedback. Effective
feedback is a non-judgmental dialogue between writers and editors. It
threatens nobody's ego. So, contrary to conventional wisdom, it doesn't
matter whether it takes place in public or private.