17 January 2003
Personnel Management & Human Resources:
How to Manage a Newsroom

"Too often I hear people from small newspapers say that they cannot develop the newsroom management because of lack of money. But newsroom management has nothing to do with money. It is a question of motivation and the will to change things. Newsroom management is not only for the New York Times but for all papers, no matter the size."

Ulrik Haagerup is the editor-in-chief of the Danish media group Nordjyske. He has also worked as a consultant in newspaper management. Mr. Haagerup believes that a well-managed newsroom is vital for any newspaper. It does not have to involve any extra expenses for the paper.

"The bottom line is that the employees need to feel secure at their work place. But security can also be other things than good pay and long holidays. Security can be that I am working for this editor, he appreciates me, he helps me and he loves journalism just as much as I do. The employee needs a sense of knowing what he is doing. It has to do with attitude, and sharing the same values. It is a question of putting journalism first," said Mr. Haagerup.

But he also acknowledges that it is a bumpy and difficult road for a newspaper manager.

"You need some very specific tools to be a good manager. You need to know how to motivate different kinds of people, and you have to know how to get different kinds of people to do different things. One reporter you might have to kick in the butt all the time, whereas another you have to kiss all the time to get the work done. A good and experienced editor knows how to treat his employees. It is very different from being a reporter," said Mr. Haagerup.

Another condition for becoming a good manager is that you need to care about other people. Not everybody can become a good manager.

"You cannot be a good carpenter if you don't like wood. The same goes for a newspaper manager, you need to like journalism. You need to like stories, reporters, articles. And you also need to have the will to fulfill other people."

It is also good for a newspaper manager to have some journalistic experience. "But on the other hand, I can see if a photo is good even if I'm not a photographer. Still, if you have to manage other people, they need to respect you. If you have a good record as a reporter it's always useful."
The result of a well-managed newspaper is well-motivated people. Mr. Haagerup lists four points that he finds essential for creating a good working environment.

"Firstly the employees have to feel like they belong to the newspaper, they need a sense of security. Secondly, they need some pressure. They should know that if they have not written a word for three months, there will be consequences. They also need to know that there are things they cannot do, like stealing, lying or being drunk at work. Thirdly the employees need a goal, they need to know what is expected of them. And the fourth point is that they need feedback from the manager. The manager needs to tell his employees what they are doing well and what they could do better. If these four points function, then people work well."

Another aspect that Mr. Haagerup finds important is that the employees must realize that there are consequences for their colleagues if they do not do their work well. And a newsroom with a lot of humor is always a nicer place to work.

For newspaper managers wanting get an introduction on how to manage a newsroom, Mr. Haagerup gives the following suggestions: "You can start by reading a general management book to understand the mechanisms behind management. Because managing a newspaper is not different from managing any other company, it is all a question about creating results through other people. Then, if you can afford it, you can take a good consultant or editor from somewhere who comes to talk about general leadership and makes you realize that you need totally different skills to manage a newspaper compared to being a reporter."

"The asset you have in a media is the staff, the people working for you, the journalists, the photographers, the sub-editors. As a manager you have to know how to manage them. A bad manager will hide in a corner and hope that nobody notices him. But then the result is a poorly managed newspaper and de-motivated staff. That in its turn results in a bad newspaper that nobody wants to read."