4-inch stilettos and five-course meals: Seven deadly sins of a converged newsroom Molly Baumgardner, Corbin Crable and Joe Petrie, The Student News Center at Johnson County Community College
The Seven Deadly Sins • Lust • Gluttony • Greed • Sloth • Wrath • Envy • Pride • But how do these vices, a key part of Christian ethics, relate to a collegiate newsroom? We’ll share our tales – and we want to hear yours, too.
Sin #1: Lust • Dressing inappropriately when covering news events or otherwise representing your media outlet. • Interoffice dating • Can occur when students who work closely together spend a majority of their time in the newsroom or collaborate on projects. • Two types: Between two employees at the same level of responsibility – or between employer and employee
Sin #1: Lust – what to do • Dress • Know your audience and the event you’re covering. What you perceive to be perfectly fine, others could view as inappropriate. • Observe other professionals around you, and carry yourself accordingly. Embody those journalists you admire. • Dating • Craft a policy to include in your staff manual. • Discuss the potential pitfalls with both parties, such as conflicts of interest (real or perceived) and a general distraction to all staff members. • Ask yourself – is this relationship worth risking my reputation? My career? The respect of my staff?
Sin #2: Gluttony • Mostly applies to meals and food items -- Allowing sources to buy lunch, coffee, etc., thus bringing objectivity into question. • Since gluttony is a sin of excess, this also can be applied to selfishness in assigning and covering stories.
Sin #2: Gluttony – what to do • Again, a staff policy on gifts is essential, both for your staff and for sources to know the limits of generosity. • When covering events or receptions, organizers may offer journalists meals or food items. For student journalists who may skip meals to attend class or to complete work assignments, these offers are not meant to influence but rather nourish. Ledger staff may accept food on this basis but must decline elaborate dinners or food items as gifts. Eat enough to satisfy hunger but not enough to change your perspective on the event. If a source asks to meet you for lunch, pay for yourself.
Sin #2: Gluttony – what to do • Editors, station managers and executive producers • When assigning coverage, don’t hog the good stuff for yourself. • Experience on student media outlets is meant to make your staff members better prepared to tackle both the ‘big’ and the ‘small’ stories. It is your job to ensure they have that experience, and you want them to be prepared. • Student leaders tend to believe, “If I want something done, I’ve got to do it myself.” But remember that the ability to designate a variety of tasks will reflect well on your as a leader.
Sin #3: Greed • Checkbook journalism: A journalist pays a source money for the right to publish his/her story. • Journalist David Frost paid former President Richard Nixon $600,000 for an interview in 1977. • Payola: Payment by record companies for the broadcast of recordings on radio. • Unlike checkbook journalism, it is illegal. • Different from the concept of ‘pay for play.’
Sin #3: Greed – what to do • Payola • The most simple answer: Just don’t do it! • Checkbook journalism • Some media outlets will try to get around this by paying for licensing fees for rights to publish exclusive content. Still, the practice is frowned upon in many media systems.
Sin #4: Sloth • Messy newsroom is one observable symptom • Think it’s a sign of productivity? Think again. • Affects projects -- Failure to meet deadlines • Starting on articles, shows and packages at the last minute • Failure to communicate about converged projects • Schedules of all staffers working on a multimedia project don’t sync up
Sin #4: Sloth – what to do • Assign teams of staffers to tidy up the newsroom each week – including newsroom refrigerators! And remember that it’s the newsroom, not your bedroom. You never know who’s going to walk through that door at any moment. • Praise in public, punish in private • Establish a writeup system – and stick to it. • Develop an incentive program (staffer of the week?) and recognize good work at staff meetings. May be done through ad tradeouts, or you may have a small budget with which to work.
Sin #5: Wrath • Writing columns or airing shows targeting specific people, organizations or topics with little context. • Punishing staff members at work for seemingly personal reasons.
Sin #5: Wrath – what to do • Remember that your media outlet should never serve as your own personal soapbox. You are charged with the task of being the voice of your student body. • The difficult part about being a student journalist (a public figure) is being willing to sacrifice your right to express a personal opinion, knowing the gravity of your job. • Remember this when maintaining your own personal social media sites. • You owe it to your staff to check personal issues with others at the door. Do your best to treat your staffers fairly. If you can say you’ve done that to the best of your ability, you’ve done your job.
Sin #6: Envy • Many young journalists have aspirations of being the next big CNN anchor or New York Times investigative reporter. They want the seemingly glamorous career that only a small minority of journalists attain – and only after years or even decades of working in the industry.
Sin #6: Envy – what to do • Recognize the reality • Beginning in a smaller market and living by the mantra, “No job is too small.” • Get coffee. Write obits. Cover the county fair. Pursue an internship, even if it’s an unpaid one. Along the way, you’ll make connections and get clips that will act as small steps toward that larger goal – that may or may not be realized.
Sin #7: Pride • It can happen to the best of us – compliments about our work reach our ears, and our heads become bigger and bigger. • Journalists tend to have the largest, most fragile egos. We gain a heightened sense of self-importance the longer we work in the field.
Sin #7: Pride – what to do • Remember that everyone is expendable – even you. The humble journalist is the one infinitely more respected. • This, too, will pass. As you head into your first job, you’ll once again find yourself at the bottom of the journalistic food chain – a newbie in a newsroom full of veterans. Think freshman year all over again.
Your tales? • We hope this sparks a dialogue between you and your converged staffs. We’d like to hear from you – your own stories of success as well as struggle. Together, let’s ensure you go and sin no more! • Molly: firstname.lastname@example.org • Corbin: email@example.com • Joe: firstname.lastname@example.org