Being accountable and sticking to it

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I recently read through a few sections of Shelby Coffey III's Best Practices: The Art of Leadership in News Organizations. As with the time before that I read a portion of this manuscript, there were several lessons that I felt I could benefit from, because the advice from those who have lived through or lived doing something, is the best advice you can get. But what I think is really amazing is that no matter what section I read from Coffey, there is always a point that I can compare to Robert Haiman's Best Practices for Newspaper Journalists.

There were three sections from Coffey that struck me during this reading: Discipline, Management & Management 2.0, and Values. In the Discipline section, William Hearst III, said, "General MacArthur listed his important daily routines. Number one was to pray to God. And number two was to have the courage to root out the people in the organization who don't measure up." Yes, this may sound a little harsh, but pinpointing one's weaker areas and then attempting to help said weakest link can greatly benefit an organization. No one said it will be an easy thing to do (then again, maybe it will), but it's what you do afterwards that counts.

And that's where Management & Management 2.0 come in. A strong point in this section is to get the right people doing the right job. Everyone has an area that they are more successful in, so play to your people's strengths and you will see your organization grow stronger under your guiding leadership. Tim McGuire said, "There's always tomorrow." So no matter what happens today, you will have the chance to either fix it or prevent it from happening again when tomorrow rolls around.

Thus we come to the Values section. Once you've found your values, stick to your guns and keep those values in your sights. Ben Bradlee said, "I think history is a great teacher of values; there's a wonderful textbook every day in your newspaper in how not to behave."

But what do all of these have to do with Haiman's section titled "Newspapers are unfair when: they won't name names"? Well, most everything has to do with this section, because it covers the public's response to anonymous sources being used in newspapers and other publications. Primarily, the public sees these hidden sources as standing on shaky ground to begin with, and poor journalism on the part of the paper. So the rules on using anonymous sources came into being. Most editors of today's publications will only use an anonymous source if the story is pivotal, if the source is certifiably reliable, and with the recognition that the reporter takes full responsibility for what is printed.

So it is that editors need to be disciplined in what standards they are setting and for the possibility of having to bring about consequences upon a reporter. They need management skills to put the right people where those people are needed, and they need to stick to their values.

If you're interested in what some of my fellow classmates had to write on these life-lessons, check out our blog.

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