editor on the verge

Online musings from the newsroom and beyond . . . by Yoni Greenbaum

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Assistant editors, go online to improve team performance

January 21st, 2008 · No Comments

Last week, I offered tips that reporters could use to keep and advance their careers. They included: publishing your own newsletter, using double-sided business cards, how social networking sites can help you expand your beat, promote your own work online, and the value of forming your own reader feedback panel. My hope was that these would be easy to follow approaches that would be attractive to reporters of all experience levels. If you missed any, I urge you to check them out. And if you tried any, I’d be interested to hear how they’ve gone for you.

I want to spend this week offering tips for the editors who read this blog — not for the senior or executive editors and really not even for City, Metro, Sports, Features or Business editors, but the assistant editors, the newsroom’s oft-under-appreciated middle managers.

In many newsrooms the team approach is still alive and well. This is when an assistant editor is given a group of reporters to guide, mold, monitor, edit and evaluate. I have seen teams with as few as two reporters to as many as seven. But given the workload of the typical assistant editor, what usually winds up happening in many newsrooms is that the focus shifts from coaching and developing to process — filing weekbooks on time, submitting expense forms, and editing daily copy, with the occasional therapy session possibly in the form of a monthly team meeting. While each of those are indeed relevant and have a place in the overall team approach, so much else gets overlooked.

I believe that there is a way to use technology to improve and strengthen the team approach. My thoughts are that it would great to have a structure whereby you could (at least):

  • have discussions as a group
  • share documents (source lists, tip sheets, etc.)
  • highlight online resources
  • maintain a group calendar

There are two possibilities that come immediately to mind: Google Groups and Ning.

Google Groups “is a free service which helps groups of people communicate effectively using email and the Web.” It’s a rather flat, low-tech approach to what I’ve described. It allows for easy discussions, sharing of documents, highlighting of resources and keeping a word-based calendar. It does offer an RSS feed, which is a nice feature. A Google Group is relatively easy to set-up and maintain. You answer about half-a-dozen questions and you’re up and running. The group can be restricted to members you approve, so privacy is not an issue.

Ning “is a platform for creating your own social networks.” From the sites own explanation:

You start by choosing a combination of features (videos, blogs, photos, forums, etc.) from an ever-growing list of options. Then customize how it looks, decide if it’s public or private, and add your brand logo if you have one. People who join your network will automatically have a customizable profile page and will be able to message and friend each other.

Definitely the high-tech brother of Google Groups, Ning does handle some thing differently (such as documents), but if you’re comfortable online and are looking for an approach that tech-savvy reporters will find appealing Ning is the way to go.

Neither of these options is a replacement for you and by “you” I mean interacting personally with your reporters. What I think they do bring to the table is a layer of organization and depth that will make the rest of your team structure stronger. Have another approach that works for you, let me know?

Tags: Beat Development · Best Practices · Editors · Leadership · Reporting · Training

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