Humanizing newsrooms will be a badge of honor

“Creating a more supportive, communicative, and organized workplace will help retain and attract talent, which can ultimately save time and money.”

At the LION Awards in October, held during the Independent News Sustainability Summit in Austin, I was struck by a comment from one of the speakers that has continued to echo in my head ever since. While accepting the award for operational resilience, Montana Free Press deputy director Kristin Tessman talked about how jarring it was to transition into the industry later in her career. “One of the things I learned very quickly when I joined the field is that journalists were traumatized by their employers for a very long time,” she said.

Improving operations, workflows, hiring, and internal dynamics should be a much bigger priority. These changes can make newsrooms better places to work and improve the quality of life for journalists — and the quality of their journalism, too. When newsrooms avoid improving operations and management, they risk setting up staff to fail. It’s precisely operational and culture issues that contribute to driving journalists out of newsrooms or the industry altogether.

These efforts require some combination of time and money, and when your newsroom is in survival mode, that may seem daunting. But creating a more supportive, communicative, and organized workplace will help retain and attract talent, which can ultimately save time and money. Sometimes the simplest starting point is asking staff to identify pain points and basic changes that would make their jobs easier. Hiring is also key, since it’s one of the fastest routes to improving diversity and finding staffers who are willing to humanize work.

To that end, I’m heartened by what I’ve seen percolating throughout the media landscape, with new roles focusing precisely on these issues and hires like Emma Carew Grovum as The Marshall Project’s first director of careers and culture. The New York Times and The Washington Post have held newsroom listening tours to help drive culture change, among other things, and the Times now has a careers and culture department. Scalawag’s leadership gave their newsroom a month of paid leave, and Prism adopted a four-day work week. Some workplaces are employing 360 reviews. Unions are helping hold employers accountable and pushing for more flexible and remote work.

At the News Revenue Hub, we’ve helped newsrooms improve their workflows and collaboration between teams. We also partnered with the Diversity Pledge Institute, which is helping Hub clients and newsrooms around the country to recruit candidates from diverse backgrounds and create feedback loops to ensure new hires feel supported by their workplace.

There’s a long way to go, but I’m hopeful that newsrooms making these changes can help lead by example and nudge the rest of the industry forward.

Rachel Glickhouse is the director of learning and labs at the News Revenue Hub.

At the LION Awards in October, held during the Independent News Sustainability Summit in Austin, I was struck by a comment from one of the speakers that has continued to echo in my head ever since. While accepting the award for operational resilience, Montana Free Press deputy director Kristin Tessman talked about how jarring it was to transition into the industry later in her career. “One of the things I learned very quickly when I joined the field is that journalists were traumatized by their employers for a very long time,” she said.

Improving operations, workflows, hiring, and internal dynamics should be a much bigger priority. These changes can make newsrooms better places to work and improve the quality of life for journalists — and the quality of their journalism, too. When newsrooms avoid improving operations and management, they risk setting up staff to fail. It’s precisely operational and culture issues that contribute to driving journalists out of newsrooms or the industry altogether.

These efforts require some combination of time and money, and when your newsroom is in survival mode, that may seem daunting. But creating a more supportive, communicative, and organized workplace will help retain and attract talent, which can ultimately save time and money. Sometimes the simplest starting point is asking staff to identify pain points and basic changes that would make their jobs easier. Hiring is also key, since it’s one of the fastest routes to improving diversity and finding staffers who are willing to humanize work.

To that end, I’m heartened by what I’ve seen percolating throughout the media landscape, with new roles focusing precisely on these issues and hires like Emma Carew Grovum as The Marshall Project’s first director of careers and culture. The New York Times and The Washington Post have held newsroom listening tours to help drive culture change, among other things, and the Times now has a careers and culture department. Scalawag’s leadership gave their newsroom a month of paid leave, and Prism adopted a four-day work week. Some workplaces are employing 360 reviews. Unions are helping hold employers accountable and pushing for more flexible and remote work.

At the News Revenue Hub, we’ve helped newsrooms improve their workflows and collaboration between teams. We also partnered with the Diversity Pledge Institute, which is helping Hub clients and newsrooms around the country to recruit candidates from diverse backgrounds and create feedback loops to ensure new hires feel supported by their workplace.

There’s a long way to go, but I’m hopeful that newsrooms making these changes can help lead by example and nudge the rest of the industry forward.

Rachel Glickhouse is the director of learning and labs at the News Revenue Hub.

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