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10. Organizational systems

Journalism walks to the beat of the news, which never stops. There’s no respite. To be a good journalist, you need to be healthy, know how to work fast, learn not to lose your calm. Whether you work alone or in a newsroom, you need to organize your work in a way that’s compatible with time constraints.

Self-discipline shows your respect for the work of others

1/ Respect imposed lengths. Writing too much makes everybody lose time: the one that needs to shorten it, the one who’s editing it, the one’s printing it, the one who’s publishing it.

  • Regard your first text as a draft, and then proofread it to remove what’s superfluous so as to respect faithfully the calibration.
  • Erasing the superfluous is deleting whatever’s not necessary for the understanding: adjectives, adverbs, definite & indefinite articles, conjunctions, etc.
  • To save 10 words and 74 characters, don’t write: “The evil Julius Caesar landed by night with his shining armor, his heavy luggage and personal silverware”. Write, “Julius Caesar landed, heavily armed, luggage in tow”. Respect your constraints and your work improves.

2/ Respect your time constraints. Being late is stressful for everyone: the proofreaders won’t do they job properly, you might have made mistakes, and the production and distribution process is disturbed.

  • Tell yourself that your delay is more important than the content. I’m in a hurry, let’s stick to the essentials. If needed, I’ll publish additional information in another issue. Tis better to publish on time an incomplete, short version of your article, than to be late with a lengthy, in-depth analysis.

3/ Respect your coworkers. Working in teams is not easy when teammates tend to be individualistic because they write on their own. You’ll need to possess particular qualities: know to listen, to share information, to understand other people’s way of thinking, and to accept arbitration. Daily news making involves avoiding drama queen antics, and coordinated labor division.

  • Keep in mind the best soloists are not necessarily the best conductors. Whether he’s the managing editor, the chief editor, or a section editor, the journalist holding a position of power must know how to manage a team, how to motivate it and sometimes to delegate. This also can be learned.

A functioning recipe: make it a principle that in a team, no one is entitled their position

Collective discipline helps you provide a quality newspaper

Self-discipline is a sine qua non requirement for quality news making. But all journalist labor divisions don’t give the same results. The best ones are those that provide the journalist with a means to have complete hold over his daily production.

  • Artisanal organization

Two floors: one gives the orders; the others carry them out. A sole journalist, who owns the paper, detains all powers. He’s the CEO and chief editor, recruits journalists and divides the tasks as he sees fit.

Advantages: homogenous team, convivial, that sticks together.
Drawbacks: paternalistic authority, risks of falling into a routine, low-room for promotion, no pluralism in the content.

  • Pyramidal organization

Four floors: the CEO, his managing team, a higher execution floor, a lower execution floor. Responsibilities are centralized at the top. The CEO names a chief editor who chooses deputies section editors.

Advantages: organized team, that’s coherent, disciplined, and efficient.
Drawbacks: risks of authority abuses, absence of pluralism, uniformity, and no room for discussion.

  • Diamond-shaped organization

Three floors: one controls, another orders, the last one carries out the orders. Decentralized responsibilities. The CEO and the chief editor delegate them to section editors who decide on their own who they hire and what they publish. Every team, made up of specialized or polyvalent journalists, works autonomously.

Advantages: diversified content, healthy competition, high performances, high expertise
Drawbacks: overly specialized work carried out behind closed doors, no transversal thinking, and elitism.

Please remember that organizational systems are only as good as the people that make them work.