Welcome to the jungle: the newsroom culture

Note: This is one of several blog posts written by Shorthorn staffers about the conferences or training they attended. Today’s blog post written by Frederick Tran about what he learned during the SPJ Region 8 Conference in Norman, OK.

 

Based on the tweeted quote above, it’s easy to see why I’m writing about this particular session from the SPJ Region 8 conference.

Welcome to the Jungle: The Culture of Newsrooms, presented by Kathleen McElroy, former editor at the New York Times. Fun fact: $20,000 of the New York Times paycheck apparently comes from editors yelling at you for whatever fault they find (or don’t find).

A newsroom is not a giant, happy family like the Mary Tyler Moore show. There are people in this newsroom that we dislike or don’t always agree with (and that’s ok, you’re only human)—but that is not an excuse to watch other people flail or sink. A newsroom is like your cousins—you sure as hell don’t get along with all of them, but it’s your family name and what they do—or don’t do—affects you. Their mistake inadvertently reflects on the publication as a whole, therefore reflecting on your work and credibility. If you see something that looks off or is wrong, you need to tell someone as soon as you find it.

“If you say I saw that but didn’t say anything, I will to get rid of you,” McElroy said.

Don’t assume that someone else will catch the mistake later on. That makes for bad newsroom culture and mistakes/errors put everyone on edge. Communication is key people.

Meaningful conversations should occur in the newsroom, however, there are certain things that you should never ask about. Asking about AP style on deadline is not a meaningful conversation. So many conversations can be typed into Google. Google is smarter than we are. Google should be your best friend.

These conversations need to have a purpose. You can sit in a newsroom for 20 hours and be the most unproductive reporter without a purpose. Everything you do should have a purpose.

Bottom line—you don’t just end up somewhere. Even if you’re doing something mundane, do it well. Boring same olds still represent your paper and your work. You want to be proud of your stuff and be able to show it off.

Case and point.

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