by Joe Enea
All stations have about the same equipment and physical resources. What makes one station different from the rest? The people working there. Chemistry among the team is important in this business. Dealing with people under pressure with major time constraints is sometimes difficult. It’s amazing how different people can become once the pressure is on. How you handle these professionals will go a long way between being adequate and being the best.
How will you bring out the best in your people?
It’s your job as an assignment editor to put your people in the best possible position to be successful in what they are doing. You do this by quickly evaluating situations, solving problems and providing the best information possible in a timely fashion.
Dealing with field crews
You’ll get the most out of your human resources by treating them respectfully.
I had a photographer named Chris Jolly who left a station I was working at for the bright lights of L.A. A few months after he left he sent me a hand written letter thanking me, not for what he learned from me or to reminisce about the stories we covered but to encourage me to continue treating people with the same honor and respect I gave him. News stories will come and go, honor and respect last forever.
In order to achieve this type of respect the main concept to remember is complete communication. They might not like what they hear, but at least they’ll understand why you’re doing it. People will do a lot more with less grumbling when they understand the importance of what they are doing and how it relates to overall newsroom operations and the success of the team.
Above all, treat your field crews the same way you would like to be treated. Ten years from now the people you manage will not remember the stories as much as how you treated them. This business is very mobile. Remember, the person you insult today, could be your supervisor tomorrow.
Keeping a calm head is vital. You cannot be “The boy who cried wolf,” on every scanner call. The newsroom will quickly learn that if you treat everything like a big deal they will treat nothing like a big deal. Showing excitement over a story should be the exception, not the rule. Your people should say, “If the desk is excited it must really be big.”
There was a time when a mentally challenged man went on a shooting rampage in a store parking lot killing several people. The man was still on the loose. As I alerted the newsroom and started moving resources around, people dropped what they were doing, listened and responded without hesitation. This happened because they trusted my information and had the confidence that my excitement represented a real need to respond to the story quickly. Due to our quick response we got exclusive video of the suspect being apprehended.
As an assignment editor you will be constantly bombarded with questions and requests. It is not important that you know all things, it is important that you know how to find all things. The newsroom must have confidence that “you’re on it.” They need to know that you are filling their requests. You should anticipate possible questions and requests they may have and begin working on them before the request is made. This will help to develop their confidence in you.
Since you are the thermostat of the newsroom, your demeanor gives your newsroom confidence in their assignment desk and lowers their anxiety level.
Joe Enea is assignment editor at KNXV, the ABC affiliate in Phoenix, Ariz.