If these editors had a time machine and could tell their past selves about the present, more journalists might be employed right now. Or not – if they’d messed with the past it’s probably equally likely that Skynet would be running our lives or resurrected dinosaurs would have eaten all humans.
But that’s not the point this Nieman Reports piece is trying to make (as much as we’re sure they love dinosaurs as much as we do)–actually, Nieman asked six former editors what they’d do differently if they were back in charge at their old papers.
The answers may surprise you, ranging from hiring more investigative reporters (Ronnie Agnew, former editor of The Clarion-Ledger) to using amateur photos from readers (Mike Pride, former editor of the Concord Monitor). That’s quite a difference.
Skip Perez, former editor of The Ledger in Lakeland, Fla., had a different take: it’s not about what to cover or how to cover it, it’s about preventing burnout. “But my sense is that almost everyone is overlooking the “people piece,” meaning the newsroom staffers who should care deeply about the quality of their work and feel good about it every day…How might newsrooms recapture that essential spirit, short of hiring a managing editor for psychotherapy?…a commitment to staff training is essential. Training budgets are among the first to be eliminated when money gets tight. But the right kind of training will boost morale and reward the news organization with dedicated staffers itching to tackle groundbreaking assignments. And those who are given training opportunities will gladly share their experiences and ideas with colleagues at a meeting or brown bag lunch.”
Now that’s a revolutionary idea.