Look For Those Teachable Moments

Jun 7, 2012

What separates a classroom from a newsroom?  I argue not much.  Like a teacher, newsroom managers have to inspire, encourage, and educate the people they work with every day.  With that in mind, here is the first of what I hope to be a regular installment in a Newsroom as Classroom series.

Teaching is ingrained in the culture of my newsroom.  I’m the ND of WFUV FM, an NPR affiliate station, based on the Rose Hill campus of Fordham University in the Bronx.  We’re only a two-person full-time news department.  It’s me and my assistant ND, Robin Shannon.  But, we’re a large department when you count up our student staffing.  We have as many as 15 students who work in our newsroom at any given time.  They serve as anchors, reporters, writers and producers.

Entry into WFUV’s newsroom for undergraduates starts with a 7 week workshop that covers everything from public radio’s core values, to writing, to interview techniques, to on-air performance, to webifying broadcast copy.  Students then intern with us for one semester to hone their skills before being invited to apply for a paid position within our newsroom.

Our newsroom functions as a classroom. There is simply no way around it.  Our daily editorial meetings double as workshops where I’m always looking for teachable moments.  If a reporter presents a wide-ranging topic instead of a short focused pitch, I use it as an opportunity to talk about how best to narrow down and present a story to an editor.  If a reporter talks about their disdain for a subject, I use it as an opportunity to talk about objectivity in reporting.  If a reporter says because “I assume” or “I read it in the paper,” I use it as an opportunity to talk about the importance of fact-checking.  Anyway, my point is don’t forget to look for those teachable moments when meeting with your staff.  Everyone will benefit.  Not just the reporter struggling with a particular issue.  These moments help to reinforce best practices among more seasoned staff, and will sharpen your own skills as a journalist and manager.