Do your story meetings look like TMZ‘s? If not, maybe they should?
In most newsrooms, story meetings are near clandestine events, with participants marching, piles of paper in hand, to a conference room (or office) only to emerge anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half later looking haggard and, in some cases, confused and dejected.
For those of you who watch the very popular television version of the “entertainment news, celebrity gossip and Hollywood rumors” website TMZ.com, you will know that their meetings are done in the open with seemingly broad participation. Editor and founder Harvey Levin stands at the front of the room and users a clear board to note stories that the show will be using. There is a free exchange as the individual staffers (or are they editors?) offer their story ideas.
Now, back to what goes on inside story meetings at most newsrooms.
Participants are typically gathered around a conference room table or the perimeter of an office. The individual running the meeting, usually the editor or managing editor, sits at the head of the table. And then in a very stodgy and organized fashion the editor goes around the table, having each of the attendees read the budgetlines they’ve prepared. If there is an exchange, it is definitely not a free one.
Now granted, the TMZ meeting is filmed, so how much of it is done for camera, I don’t really know. And whether or not it has an impact, positive or otherwise, I can’t gauge from my seat on my couch. But it’s hard to argue that their meeting approach is the more positive and likely more productive one. Before you start shaking your head saying that’s TV, pay attention to the meeting occurring in this video:
While it may lack the pizazz of TMZ, it does seem to mimic the open part. The New York Times is not alone, there are other newspapers that have moved the meeting out into the open and still others that have even taken their meetings online (but I would suggest that those are the same as the traditional meeting, except the stodginess is shared with the online audience).
I would suggest trying the TMZ approach. Open your meeting (maybe just the morning meeting) to the entire staff. Build the budget from those in attendance, editors can speak for staffers not in attendance, staffers can offer their own ideas based on what they’re working on or what they know is going on. Encourage that free exchange. I think you’ll find that the meeting will boost morale, encourage collaboration and even increase productivity.
If nothing else, film the meeting and throw it online. Heck, it works for TMZ.