Think News Management Is Easy?

A photo of a man staring at blank TV monitors
A news manager must know how to make the most of the media platform he's been given to fill. Photo © Blend Images - Colin Anderson / Getty Images

In many professions, being the boss looks easy. You get to tell people what to do, all while getting paid more money than anyone else. In the news business, being a news manager beings a lot of responsibility, deadline pressure and stress. Know about these pitfalls before applying to run a newsroom.

The Stress of Personnel

Even the best news manager can't put out a newspaper or newscast by himself. It takes a team that is motivated to often work hard and late into the day to produce the best news product.

While dealing with difficult employees is universal throughout business, there are some conditions that can be unique to newsrooms. Maybe that difficult employee is a TV station's news anchor, who is beloved by the public but just wants to drink coffee while everyone else gets the newscast together.

Maybe a news manager has the best team he'd ever hoped to have. That is, until many of them leave for better jobs and bigger paychecks elsewhere. That is common in TV news, which ranks TV markets by size. That has many people in the newsroom itching to move up the ladder to bigger and bigger cities.

Even if a TV station or newspaper has several job vacancies in the newsroom, the product still has to get out. The remaining employees have to plug the gaps, which can lead to lower morale as they are forced to work harder while the boss searches for new faces.

The Stress of Ratings or Circulation

While a news manager has an infinite list of ways to produce a newscast or newspaper, there is one solitary yardstick used to determine his success -- Nielsen ratings in television, or circulation numbers in print.

For all of the nuances in journalism, the cold numbers are what matter.

A news manager might produce a product that brings home an Emmy Award or a Pulitzer Prize but could still lose his job if audience numbers slip. That's what leads many news managers to search for stories that appeal to the lowest common denominator in the hopes of attracting the masses.

Focus group research or a media consultant can help provide answers on what viewers or readers want. But it's the news manager who must make the decision and accept the consequences if the results aren't good.

The Stress of Revenue Growth

Generating revenue is another source of stress, especially if a news manager works for one of the top 10 big media companies, which are commonly public trading companies which answer to stockholders. Even smaller companies or those that are privately-owned are constantly wanting to increase their cash flow.

That's common in business. But the news manager at a newspaper is typically far removed from those who decide subscription rates. The same is true in television, where a news director doesn't have a say in how much is charged for selling TV advertisements.

A news manager may know exactly how to make his audience larger. It could be by adding staff, equipment or cutting-edge technology. But his requests may be denied based on the dollars involved.

Being a news manager has its rewards. It is satisfying to see how you can set the agenda, tone and style of news coverage in your community. You can coach others into becoming better journalists. You can see your plans fulfilled.

That's what can help any news manager overcome the struggles and stress that come with the job.

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