Preparing to lead a newsroom

The news business is notorious for promoting well-qualified journalists into leadership positions with little or no preparation. Some of them do just fine but others struggle with new and different responsibilities.

It’s a big leap from producing a newscast to inspiring a staff; from running an assignment desk to changing a newsroom’s culture. It’s hard enough to take over a newsroom in good times, but new leaders face even bigger challenges now. Even seasoned managers have a tough time handling layoffs and budget cuts. In this economy, staffs are more stressed than ever and morale may be low.

Many newsroom managers wind up learning what they need to know by trial and error but there are other options. Here’s a list I put together for a former student who’s just been told he’s being promoted to a leadership job in his newsroom:

Do it yourself training is available free or at very low cost, and you can do it on your own schedule. For starters, get these RTNDA publications: Incoming: Advice for the Newly Named News Director and Ready, Set, Lead: The Resource Guide for New Managers Yes, I wrote them both, but did I mention they’re free?  Next, check out NewsU for online training. Click on the Leadership/Management tab. Some courses are free, others are reasonably priced.

For out-of-the-office training, RTNDF offers a series of inexpensive two-day leadership workshops. Check for a current schedule. Poynter has a long list of terrific leadership seminars, including one designed specifically for new managers. An excellent choice if you can spare a week.

The Carole Kneeland Project puts on a newsroom leadership conference each fall. Applications are due in the spring. The Knight Digital Media Center has an annual program that’s also worth investigating. So does the Media Management Center at Northwestern’s Medill school of journalism.

Finally, take a look at the Center for Creative Leadership. While the other programs listed here focus exclusively on newsroom leadership, CCL trains leaders in all fields. Their courses are expensive, but everyone I know who has attended one raves about them. Many of their programs require a longer time commitment than a news manager can make, but they do have a three-day Foundations of Leadership course that could be worth investigating.

What other options for news leadership training would you recommend?