Monday, 13 December 2010

Ten tips for regional editors for 2011

For the last three years I have written a column for the Press Gazette aimed at regional newspaper editorial managers. Each edition it covered a different issue facing editors and how they might deal with them. They included conflict, dealing with difficult people, managing change, recruitment, technology, redesigning the title, sorting out the technology, running the budget and the like. It is a sign of the times that I covered redundancy three times - and was asked by one newspaper group if they could use one of the articles as its guidelines for all managers. The column has now run its course. I have exhausted my supply of tips (some of which are included here). So the last column appears in the magazine this month. I will be making occasional appearances in future. In the meantime, good luck to editor Dominic Ponsford and his team. By not relying on the newspaper industry for its revenue, the magazine is now more forthright and direct than it has ever been. It certainly isn't afraid to ruffle feathers - and is all the better for it.
Here is my last column.
Ten tips for editors in 2011
As we lurch towards a new year, the regional newspaper industry is desperately looking for a flicker of light at the end of what has been a very long and very dark tunnel. But most of the editors I speak to are, quite sensibly, steeling themselves for more of the same. So in this, my final regular column, I offer ten tips for those of you still editing regional titles in 2011.
i) Whatever gets thrown at you - the editor's core job remains the same. Set a vision for the title, tell everyone what it is and give them the skills and motivation to deliver it.
ii) Be an architect of change. No editor was ever remembered for padding the same path as his predecessor. What do you want your epitaph to say? He was a good administrator? He stayed within budget? He presided
over a difficult period with dignity and integrity?
iii) You are only as good as the people around you - motivate and reward the key players.
iv) Journalism has to be paid for. Entrepreneurial opportunities are there both in print and online. Editors need to take an innovative approach to how the company makes money. Relying on advertising departments to
finally bring in more sits vac and ROP will lead only to tears. It may be time to take charge.
v) Continually revisit your content. Set standards and give feedback - protect regular slots to talk to your team about the title; what is working, what isn't and what you want changing.
vi) The atmosphere in the newsroom is down to you. I go into some offices that are like libraries, others that are vibrant. That doesn't happen by accident.
vii) Protect your staff, your title and yourself from outside fads and decisions - including those of the company.
viii) Look after yourself - it is a stressful time and I see editors who don't look as fit and perky as they did a year or two ago. It is too easy to get into the habit of always tackling that extra job or clearing the decks for tomorrow. Stop. Go home to the family, or to the pub, and make sure you get your quota of sleep. A stressed out and burnt out editor is no good to anyone!
ix) Be prepared for the curve ball ... you may have dealt with just about everything in recent years but it isn't over yet. There will be further 'radical solutions' thrust upon you. That is certain. But there may also be opportunities. If a buy-out comes your way, how are you placed? If the next round of ‘innovation’ involves culling editors, how well are you protected?
x) Know when to draw a line in the sand. If you fundamentally disagree with the company and you cannot change it, if the job is making you and your family unhappy, then know when to say enough. Your currency in the outside world is higher than you think. The skills that journalists take for granted are very marketable - even in this climate. There is life after editing (trust me on this one).
It is 21 years since I took my first editor's chair. It had its moments - a press that let the paper down, a sabre-rattling union, a round of redundancies - but it was a walk in the park when compared to editing today.
There are many of you, I know, who do it really well under extremely tough circumstances. Good luck … you deserve much better. 


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