Photo: Erik Westra

November 19 & 20 in Philly Support OpenNews!

Sessions at SRCCON:LEAD

Sessions at SRCCON:LEAD are collaborative and hands-on, a chance to draw on the experiences of every attendee and work together on plans to change the power dynamics in journalism. Our schedule will explore what journalism leadership could and should look like, and help us teach each other skills we can use to be part of that change.

Here are the sessions we’ve confirmed for SRCCON:LEAD so far. This list and these descriptions may evolve between now and our conference on November 19 & 20 in Philadelphia. Huge thanks to all who submitted proposals, and to the community reviewers who helped us during the review process.

“Because the Lead Said So”: How the h*ck do we make decisions anyway?

Facilitated by Cordelia Yu & Tina Ye

Everyone has stories of teams breaking down or being blindsided by a decision. Some problems are easy to foresee: swoop and poop managers, clashing personalities, untested assumptions, and decision makers without context or knowledge. Other problems are more insidious such as misunderstandings due to cultural differences or power inequities that silence people from marginalized communities. And we know what happens next: misalignment, lack of buy-in leading to mistrust, angst, failed projects, and teams being disempowered.

How do we make sure decisions result in alignment and clarity for everyone on the team? How do we make sure the communities we serve are heard in the decision-making? How do we change our minds as we learn new things? How do we create a safe space for equitable participation when there are cultural differences, power dynamics, or team members optimizing for different outcomes?

Join Tina and Cordelia as we take a stroll through an ecosystem of collective decision making methods and talk about how to apply them to make better products and nurture healthier communities.

Democratic leadership in the newsroom

Facilitated by Brittany Mayes & Simon Galperin

As journalists, we often feel it is our mission to protect democracy. If that’s the case, why aren’t our newsrooms more democratic. What could democratic leadership look like within a newsroom?

Using the definition that “democracy is a system that draws its credibility from representing and acting on the interest of as many voices as possible,” how can we rethink and restructure our newsrooms to do just that? What metrics can we use to measure democracy in our day-to-day work? Taking it one step further, how would this affect workplace culture?

Let’s think through the changes our newsrooms could make to create spaces for more voices to rise, especially the voices of the underrepresented journalists. How would our team structures and workflows change to make democratic leadership a reachable goal? Finally, what does democratic leadership looks like when it meets the intersection of organizational hierarchy and team culture development?

Effective Hiring Shapes Newsroom Culture

Facilitated by Tiff Fehr & C.J. Sinner

C.J. Sinner and Tiff Fehr will update attendees and the OpenNews community more broadly with our latest hiring-related findings, at use in our respective newsrooms: The New York Times (big) and the Minneapolis Star Tribune (small). Our respective teams have been actively tweaking hiring in ways big and small, as well. We will lead an exercise that illustrates how leadership and investments in better hiring practices can help teams learn a lot about their needs/wants, priorities, applicants, long-term recruits and broader news-org aspirations.

Growing Journalists (Not Just Their Pageviews)

Facilitated by Bettina Chang & Annie Chabel

How do you evaluate a reporter’s performance? And how can you use evaluation to support a team member’s professional growth? This session will focus on the human side of managing a news outlet.

Whether you are working within an existing evaluation system, or if you have the power to create your own, we’ll discuss what makes an effective evaluation system that can strengthen team dynamics and performance. Does your outlet’s internal metrics for success match with metrics that team members set for themselves? And if not, how do you create a set of incentives that is good for both? We’ll facilitate a conversation to hear what is working and not working at other organizations, and workshop a list of dos and don’ts for thoughtful evaluation practices.

How can you lead what you don’t understand?

Facilitated by Andrew Losowsky & Nozlee Samadzadeh

Let’s bridge the gaps between journalism/tech as we become leaders.

Most people will come from one or other side of the newsroom/technology line, and then put in a position to be leaders of both. How do you get the respect of those from the other side of the aisle, and how do you make the right decisions concerning the part of your job that’s not in your area of expertise? What is the key vocabulary, mindset, and knowledge you need to work well with the other group?

Let’s create a framework upon which we can build a path to better leadership for all.

How do we track team decisions?

Facilitated by Gabrielle LaMarr LeMee

How many times after making team decisions have you thought “I’ll remember why we did that”. Or if you know you need a record of the discussion, you made a note in a google doc and thought “I’ll remember where these notes are for future reference” and then gotten lost trudging through dozens or hundreds of files? How many times have you been asked, months later, why a certain decision was made and had to give a vague answer on your “feelings” about the issue. Or how many times have you noticed a pattern of the same problematic decision being made over and over again but without any actual records to support your argument?

Decision tracking is a crucial project management component. We know this as it relates to code projects. We try to instill a habit of version control, tracking changes, and writing reproducible, documented files. But when it comes to the day-to-day strategy decisions that drive the content and impact of our journalism, we don’t take the same consistently documented approach. This scattered project management means that it is harder to support decisions, especially for women and people of color, it is harder to transfer institutional knowledge, it is harder to get large teams aligned, and it is harder to spot patterns that indicate problematic approaches.

Let’s explore what information about decisions in our organizations would be useful to record, how to track and share decisions within and across our teams, and how to get buy in for transparent decision making.

Interactive portion idea: We will have some problems to solve as small groups, and then we will determine what context needs to be recorded. Then pairs of groups will ask questions and suggest alternatives and we will test the usefulness of the tracking. Did everyone feel their input was captured? What does the tracker summary reveal about our approach to this problem? What did we value or not value based on the data in the tracker?

How journalists can build better support networks

Facilitated by Jen Mizgata

“It’s hard to be the only [x] in the room.” “I don’t feel heard in my newsroom.” “The higher you go, the more you have to take on.” “It’s lonely at the top.” If any of this sounds familiar, this session is for you! Jen Mizgata, who runs ONA’s Women’s Leadership Accelerator, will lead an interactive session that highlights why you need a support network and how you can build one that works for you. Whether you are shy or energetic, working in a rural community or a big city, we all need support as we work to solve complex challenges in the journalism and technology space. Learn how to find people that can help you, how to keep the momentum going and how you can support others in journalism.

How not to be 'The Man'

Facilitated by Amy Kovac-Ashley & P. Kim Bui

This is still a work-in-progress, but here goes:

Most of us have walked away from an experience with bosses or supervisors thinking to ourselves, “They have completely lost touch. When I become a manager, I won’t do that.” But what happens when we are in positions of authority? How can we maintain our empathy and connection with our colleagues and staffs? How can we avoid becoming “The Man”?

This interactive session will help us examine what we’ve learned about leadership (often by osmosis) and how we can try not to repeat the sins of our predecessors.

How to create leaders for tomorrow's newsrooms

Facilitated by Jonathan Kealing

It’s often said that journalism organizations take the best journalists and turn them into the worst leaders and managers — we can no longer afford to do that. In this session, attendees will participate in designing a training program for new and would-be managers that could include people from different locations and different organizations. It will be informed by people’s previous experience with training programs, as well as past experiences with good managers and bad managers.

How to have difficult conversations (and solve problems in the process)

Facilitated by Katie Myrick

One of the most stressful parts of being a first-time manager can be the difficult conversations you are bound to have. Will I say the right things? How will they respond? What if it doesn’t make a difference?

But what if you could turn those conversations from stressful to productive, for both you and your employee? You can.

How to lead without power

Facilitated by Steven Rich & Ariana Giorgi

In newsrooms, as in other workplaces, most are given power and leadership through title and job description. But to get to that position, you usually need experience with both power and leadership. We’ll share and brainstorm ways to build leadership experience without having a management title so that we can be more prepared for future opportunities. And, in cases when there is no one above you who can edit you, we’ll explore how to lead your newsroom without the title and exert power over the things you care deeply about.

How to re-org your newsroom around product without breaking it

Facilitated by Jessica Morrison & Amanda Yarnell

Change management is hard. When we set out to introduce product processes to our newsroom nearly two years ago, we were thinking about our org chart and our teams that were overworked and overwhelmed but still very passionate about serving our audience of chemists.

In this session, we’ll show you how we’ve been gradually re-building our newsroom org chart to reflect the roles and responsibilities we have today. We’ll share with you the successes we’ve had and the challenges we’ve faced as we built a product team and re-structured our newsroom around it.

Join us in this encore performance of our SRCCON 2019 session that includes a super fun and potentially extremely realistic stakeholder alignment activity.

How to succeed and thrive in places that weren’t designed for you

Facilitated by Emma Carew Grovum & Candice Fortman

If you’re a straight, white, cisgender male, most spaces were designed for you to succeed and thrive. But what about the rest of us? This discussion will address issues of ambition and success, what kinds of leaders to look for in spaces where we might thrive, and how to manage up, down and across when the room’s we occupy aren’t built for our eventual success. We want to tackle questions like:

  • I’m the only mom in my workplace, how can I make sure I get the support I need?
  • I’m a queer person in a mostly straight/cisgender company, how can I bring my authentic self to the job?
  • I’m a woman of color who wants to break in to management and leadership, how can I do this intentionally?

This session aims to break down barriers to success and help folks identify what makes a healthy, vibrant newsroom, and how that relates to hiring, promoting and retaining folks from historically marginalized backgrounds.

Leading in times of fear

Facilitated by Ariane Bernard & Sasha Koren

Change is hard at the best of times. But our industry is undergoing a significant crisis (of trust, of business models), which makes effecting change even harder. And as if that weren’t enough, our work is often centered around coverage of political, social and environmental events that can be upsetting, if not downright terrifying. So how do we approach this environment as leaders? What does it mean to push for change in an organization when people are afraid? What does it mean to lead when you, yourself, are probably afraid too?

Let’s create an implicit contract or code of conduct between managers and their employees.

Facilitated by Helga Salinas

What do employers expect from their managers? What do managers expect from their employees? Can we create an implicit contract or code of conduct, and how do we enforce it, while acknowledging power dynamics?

In this session, I hope to gain insight on understanding the relationship between managers and the people they oversee in newsrooms. It’s a complicated relationship, especially if you’re friends (or if you’re not), but it is one that can affect everyone’s productivity, well-being, and livelihood.

We can outline (1) goals as professionals, (2) values in how we interact with each other, and (3) how this looks like in the workplace.

Like a Boss

Facilitated by Scott Klein & Kainaz Amaria

When you become a manager you soon realize the authority you’ve been given doesn’t work the way you thought it would, and your new tools don’t come with an instruction manual. And if you manage a nontraditional team in a newsroom, things get even more complicated. You probably can’t rely on your peers and managers to help you know if you’re making good decisions, and you might even be making fundamental decisions about what your team will be and do without much help. Let’s figure out together how we can build and foster lasting teams and do great work with no blueprint, no peers, and huge expectations.

Meeting management challenges in local newsrooms

Facilitated by Erin Mansfield & Frank Mina

This will be an interactive and honest conversation about how management can be improved in local newsrooms. We know that the industry has a tendency to promote non-transferable skill sets, and that there are dramatic industry disruptions that lead to chaotic situations for management. We’ll talk about how we can tackle those big issues through human resource development.

The program will involve large-group interaction, small-group discussion, one-on-one interactions, and brainstorming work with notecards, all designed to use our communication skills to solve problems. Most importantly, we’ll have interaction between traditional managers and direct reports so we can better understand our counterparts and practice interacting with each other.

On your own: building the leadership model that works for you

Facilitated by Mandy Brown & David Yee

Leadership and management can take many forms, and new leaders often struggle to decide what model of leadership to emulate as they pick up the work. But what if there is no one model we can depend on? We believe that the most important thing leaders can do is to better understand both their particular skills at leadership and the nature of the relationships they need to manage: with their team, their stakeholders, the work, and themselves. In this session, we will investigate leadership through this lens, rather than through the assumptions we have been conditioned to form around hierarchical management and the traditional tasks assigned to the role. We will discuss the role of power balance in leadership and how to shift that balance as your team’s needs and challenges change. You will walk away with a better and more flexible sense of how you lead and better tools for making decisions that feel both effective and natural to you.

Sometimes, Becoming an Editor/Manager Makes You Like Your Job Less. Come Learn Why and What You Can Do to Not Feel That Way.

Facilitated by Sisi Wei & Yue Qiu

In most newsrooms, becoming an editor (and therefore, oftentimes a manager) still seems to be the only way to advance one’s career. You worked hard and finally got that promotion, but now you’re not as happy as you used to be. You miss being in the trenches and using skills you’re really good at or really enjoy.

We know how you feel because we’ve gone through this too. Come to this session if you’re currently in this boat, or if you’re thinking about becoming an editor/manager, but can’t figure out if it’s right for you. Together, we’ll walk you through an exercise to figure out what brings you joy and fulfillment, how that changes when you get a new kind of job, and how you can adapt and find joy in new roles.

Start with why: A framework for motivating a team

Facilitated by Stephen Stirling & Brian Boyer

Most journalists have thought about what it would be like to have their own news organization, but how many have actually thought about what it would look like? We’re at a point in the industry where new ideas are crucial to progress or even survival.

A strong mission statement sets the tone for any startup news outlet, but could also help you better define your own mission as a manager of a new team or as an individual journalist. Do you have a big idea? Are you managing a team in need of direction?

Come tell us ‘what’ your idea is and we’ll help you explore ‘why’ it should be. And this is essential for member-powered newsrooms. If people are to give you money out of the goodness of their hearts, they must identify with your “why”. They’ve gotta believe that we are all on the same team. That we’re working, together, on a mission.

The State of Newsroom Diversity Reports

Facilitated by Disha Raychaudhuri & Moiz Syed

In recent years, many news organizations have published their diversity reports to educate folks in the industry about their challenges with diversity and to indicate that they are taking newsroom diversity seriously. This has also led to a number of conversations in the Journalists of Color slack and at other in-person settings about diversity committees at news organizations trying to figure out what their diversity report should cover and how they can convince management to publish effective indicators of diversity. In this session we would like to facilitate a conversation around the topic of diversity reports. We will start with a quick survey of recent diversity reports published by prominent journalism outlets and then move to a discussion/group activity to work out what measures should be included in diversity reports to further the actual goals of increasing diversity in newsrooms.

The workplace roadblocks that women face — and what to do about them

Facilitated by Katie Hawkins-Gaar

The statistics don’t add up. Women represent more than two-thirds of graduates earning degrees in journalism or mass communications, but the media industry is comprised of only one-third women. That ratio is even worse in leadership roles. In newsrooms across the country, men far outnumber women at the highest ranks.

In this session, we’ll explore the systemic issues causing journalism’s gender imbalance, and discuss potential solutions. Part presentation, part group discussion, this session is designed to foster meaningful conversation and offer up useful strategies and ideas that participants can take back to their own workplaces. From the toll of emotional labor to a lack of mentorship opportunities, we’ll dive deep into several key issues facing women.

Although this session is specifically about women in journalism, individuals of all genders are encouraged to attend. Open and candid discussion will be encouraged, and respect among participants will be enforced.

Thinking Beyond Your Newsroom: The 2020 Census

Facilitated by Megan Garvey & Ashley Alvarado & Dana Amihere

The census affects everybody’s lives: Congressional representation is at stake, along with $800 billion in federal funds that will get disbursed for state, county, and community programs over the next decade. It’s an especially big deal in Los Angeles, which is considered the hardest-to-count county in the country. Two years ahead of the 2020 count, KPCC-LAist identified the census as a major story. In this session, we’ll discuss the steps we took to understand what community members did and didn’t know and determine who needed better information (turned out basically everyone). We’ll talk about how to identify obstacles to reaching those in need of that information and how to think honestly about whether your newsroom is best suited to overcoming them. We’ll also discuss how to distribute leadership internally and externally and how to share leadership and ownership through collaboration with community, ethnic, and in-language media.

To Be Better Leaders In Journalism, Let’s Look Beyond Journalism

Facilitated by Heather Bryant & Shady Grove Oliver

Almost all of us have had an experience with our health care when we’ve talked to a doctor about something that is confusing, scary or painful and walked out of the room feeling like we weren’t truly heard. Maybe they rushed through the appointment, barely made eye contact, or didn’t respond in a way that made you feel like your urgency or concern was acknowledged or considered. Narrative medicine seeks to bridge these gaps in caregiver/patient communication through narrative, storytelling, and creative writing training for medical professionals. As of 10 years ago, this practice was considered experimental. Now, medical schools and institutions around the country are incorporating this cross-disciplinary approach into their core programs. In journalism, some of the same imbalances in power and communication are furthering the divide among journalism institutions, journalists, subjects and the audience. How can journalism leadership look to other areas or disciplines to create a more equitable and ethical practice moving into the future? It’s not just narrative medicine we can learn from. What does cultural repatriation teach us about ownership of a community’s story? What can we learn from reconciliation, the just transition framework, restorative practices, remedial education and community organizing to inform our leadership? There is much from beyond the realm of traditional journalism that we can turn to in order to learn how to be more inclusive, equitable, considerate and creative as leaders and practitioners. Bring your whole self, your life, your experiences and your curiosity and join us for a frank group discussion and brainstorming session around different fields of practice, approaches, skills and styles that we can practice to be better leaders.

Toward a more resilient newsroom: Redistributing power through participation

Facilitated by Kayla Christopherson & Allison Lichter Joseph

While journalists are often focused on the complex issues they’re reporting on, there’s a need to look at our newsrooms as complex systems themselves as we seek paths for sustainability. If we want to truly represent the people we serve, meet their information needs, and have them see value in our journalism, we must consider how our own structures, processes, and policies affect our ability to do so. Ultimately, we need to build cultures of resilience that take an inclusive approach, strengthening our organizations’ ability to prioritize listening and learning and expand opportunities for shared decision-making across our staff and into our communities.

This session will use tools and concepts from systems thinking and resilience theory to explore how newsrooms can build more inclusive, participatory processes internally. We’ll discuss questions such as:

  • What does a resilient news organization look like?
  • How can we redistribute power and decision-making to create more equitable newsrooms for all staff and the communities they serve?
  • In what ways can we increase participation – both inside and outside of the newsroom?
  • How are we being intentional about how we’ve designed our organizations in ways that strengthen networks over hierarchy?

Together, we’ll identify concrete opportunities for change that participants can use to strengthen their newsrooms’ internal resilience and overall sustainability.

Use that spreadsheet! Why leaders need to manage money

Facilitated by Angilee Shah & Camari Ellis

Part of leading is managing money. So let’s talk about how to get control of budgets and make sure your expenses match your goals. Let’s think strategically about how to get more information about money from your organization and use that knowledge to better advocate for your mission and team. We’ll be talking both about why money matters and also work on some concrete examples of meaningful budget. Please bring a spreadsheet or budget you’re working on — this session will be led by an editor/entrepreneur and a finance professional!

Community reviewers

We’d also like to thank the people who helped us think through themes and programming for SRCCON:LEAD and select this amazing slate of sessions!