‘Brilliant jerks’ no longer welcome as Kansas college daily heralds ‘kick-ass’ first week
Katie Kutsko doesn't suffer from low ambitions, undue modesty or lack of clarity as editor in chief of the University Daily Kansan at the University of Kansas.
Exhibiting the exuberance of youth and the tactics of a wizened field general, last spring she detailed a lengthy manifesto for change. She'd turn the paper from a four-days-a-week print product into a twice-a-week print paper that focused its efforts online. As College Media Matters chronicled the vision, she was declaring the need for:
"Morning newsroom meetings. Daytime reporting and editing shifts. Editor-reporter collaboration throughout the story development process instead of simply at the draft-revision stage. An email newsletter. A brand manager position. A strengthened Kansan alumni community. A pushback against topdown decision-making and 'brilliant jerks' on staff who exude entitlement more than excitement. A recruiting effort to bring more multicultural voices and non-journ majors into the mix. And a requirement for staff to be 'analytics-literate.'"
There was much more, including a detailed daily work schedule that did parenthetically concede they were students and, well, would need time to be students, too. You could have transposed her battle plan onto the newsrooms of BuzzFeed or The New York Times and not found much out of sync, other than the presumed need of the boss and staff to check out a class once in a while.
Well, the new school year just started and, after just one week, a Kansan whose modus operandi seems to be fittingly tornadic is happy to proclaim close-to-to-unadulterated successes.
They've launched an email newsletter on Sunday and Wednesday nights, along with morning and evening roundups posted on Kansan.com and social channels. They "flipped the production schedule," so editors get to the office before 9 a.m. "and stay until (at least) 6 p.m." There's a night editor, too, who works from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. and a late reporter on call who helps monitor social media and write when needed.
There's more, seemingly much more.
She's put into place two daily meetings, "prioritized site/ social metrics at our content meetings," and made sure that section editors give target post times for stories, photos, videos and graphics to the digital, social media and managing editors.
Oh, yeah, they've also turned out two print editions, even if they know that's kind of old school and their path is a digital one.
"We are starting to function like a professional newsroom!" she declares, though she does sort of concede they can't replicate that hallowed institution totally since, well, there is the matter of going to class on occasion.
"If it sounds like I am bragging, it’s because I totally am. 100 percent, unashamed bragging about the kick-ass first week our team had. I’m beyond proud of the amazing editors who I get to work alongside daily. Everyone has stepped up to a bar [Managing Editor] Emma [LeGault] and I set pretty dang high, and everyone has exceeded our expectations."
Her latest missive is somewhat self-deprecating, as manifested by a rhetorical question she poses:
"Wow, Katie! You’re painting such a rosy picture. Everything sounds like it’s going perfectly!"
"LOL" is her response.
"It’s not quite perfect — we have plenty of room for growth, but mainly everyone has exceeded expectations. We’ve already made adjustments to our workflow, who works in the newsroom when, how we communicate and more. As with every semester, we’re all adjusting to one another. We’re also really adjusting to a new way of doing things. There are growing pains, of course, but generally people are doing great work."
Let's assume there's more to come from a dang-proud, high-energy, higher-education outpost in Kansas.