Posts by Butch Ward

About Butch Ward

Butch Ward is senior faculty and former managing director at The Poynter Institute, where he teaches leadership, editing, reporting and writing. He worked for 27 years in newspapers, at The Philadelphia Inquirer and Baltimore News American, and was managing editor in both newsrooms. Before joining Poynter in 2005, he spent three years being covered by journalists as vice president for corporate and public affairs at Independence Blue Cross in Philadelphia. Ward has taught and facilitated programs for a variety of newsrooms and journalism associations, including the Committee of Concerned Journalists, American Society of News Editors and Associated Press Media Editors. He has taught leadership and narrative writing to journalists in South Africa and Australia, and has helped lead specialized Poynter conferences on subjects ranging from gun violence to America’s New Veterans to the impact of social media in election campaigns. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, Ward lives in Wallingford, Pa., with his wife, Donna, who helps run the library for a kindergarten academy of 250 students. Their daughter, Caitlin, is pursuing a nursing degree. Their son, Coley, and his wife, Suz, live in Newton, MA, with Cassidy, the most beautiful granddaughter in the whole, wide world.
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Want your newsroom to collaborate? Help veterans and beginners learn from each other

The week of my 64th birthday began with an email from Ben, my editor. “This is too good,” read the subject line. No one recognizes a story pitch faster than a former editor. I braced myself. “There's a new sitcom about a veteran, decorated journalist managing a bunch of millennial reporters…. Would you take a look and let me know … Read More
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10 ideas for dealing with that colleague who's now your boss

At some point in your career, you’ve probably had this happen: One of your colleagues is becoming your boss. Do you remember how you reacted when the announcement was made? How you acted toward the new boss on day one? It can be awkward. One day you’re complaining to each other about management, and the next day your former crony … Read More
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You're making the abrupt leap from staffer to boss. Now what?

It is Friday afternoon and you’re a reporter at the top of your game. Your story is featured on the newsroom’s homepage. Your inbox is filled with tips from sources, requests from viewers, complaints from city council members. A young reporter asks for your advice. A local journalism professor wants you to teach her class. But all of this is … Read More
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Sticking to your management resolutions is tough. These good habits can help.

Like a lot of people, I’m more than halfway through this year’s observance of Lent. And something I read the other day about reaching a deeper spirituality got me thinking about another of my aspirations — understanding how to be a better manager. Here's the author's admonition: Unless you make time for spiritual exercise every day, your journey will surely … Read More
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Hey, boss: Future managers are watching you. What are they learning?

Who taught you to be a manager? A lot of people taught me, some of them a long time ago. There was the boss in my early days as an editor who telephoned me on the city desk about 10 one evening and, in a drunken fog, promised to ruin me over a perceived slight. Too young to know better, … Read More
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Just do it: The no-excuses approach to becoming a better manager

What, I ask managers, would you like to change about the way you lead? “I’d like to be a better planner,” one says. “I’d like to be more flexible,” says another. “I’d like to be less impatient,” says a third. Be, be, be. I’d like to be… But what will you do in order to be a better leader? That’s … Read More
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How are you helping your staff improve? Maybe you need a strategy.

Somewhere along the line, I realized that two kinds of managers worked in newsrooms. The first kind I could always find; they were working at their computer screens. The second kind often tested my tracking skills. They might be in the cafeteria. They might be sitting in a quiet conference room. They might be across the room, leaning against a … Read More
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From Acel Moore, a life's lesson in how to build real community engagement

For a lot of people in the journalism business, the notion of "engaging the community" is a new idea. After all, for all those years before social media, Web comments and email, the public’s access to newsrooms and the people who work in them was pretty much limited to phone calls (sometimes returned) or letters to the editor (sometimes published). Read More
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Managers, does your staff trust you? Try building your campaign on these 8 ideas.

Whether they're standing behind podiums, working the crowd or appealing to me on my TV screen, every candidate’s message is, at its core, the same: You can trust me. Some pledge to return America to greatness. Some promise to lower my taxes. Some assure me I won’t have to worry about competing for jobs with people from someplace else. They … Read More
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Managers, you work really hard. But are you doing your job?

During Poynter leadership programs, newsroom managers receive feedback from their staffs, colleagues and bosses back home. The participants can use the feedback to help decide how well their leadership is working. In recent months, I’ve seen an interesting trend in that feedback—one I would call worrisome. Staffs are letting their bosses off the hook. First, here’s what hasn’t changed: Asked … Read More
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Should your newsroom act more like a startup?

The news that Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes decided to sell The New Republic got me thinking about all of the established news organizations I've worked with in the past few years, and what all of them have in common: Like The New Republic, they're trying to become something else. Some are trying to become "digital-first." Or "audience-focused." Or "platform neutral." … Read More
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Need a newsroom resolution for 2016? How about reclaiming some expertise?

This business of choosing resolutions for the New Year requires some strategic thought. First, I need to select an area of my life that requires attention. (There are many.) And second, it helps if I select an area I actually can influence. (That winnows the field a bit.) How about this one, editors and news directors: Resolved: In 2016, your newsroom will … Read More
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Another downsizing? Here are 5 ideas for helping your staff move forward

Acknowledge that your newsroom has lost people. Don't pretend it didn't happen. (Photo by Deposit Photos) The note from management hit the bulletin board on a Friday afternoon. It was October 1981. The note said that in two weeks, 30 members of the newsroom staff of 150 would be laid off—a 20 percent reduction. Those interested in voluntarily accepting … Read More
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'I can't ever unsee that:' Which unforgettable moments should a journalist choose to cover?

A version of this presentation opened the 11th annual Poynter-Kent State University Media Ethics Workshop. The subject of this year’s workshop, held on Sept. 17, was Journalism and Trauma.  Why are we here today? We're here today because the body of a 3-year-old Syrian child washed ashore on a Turkish beach, and journalists had to decide what to do … Read More
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The challenge no manager wants: Leading an organization through its grief

Jeff Marks, the General Manager of WDBJ, and anchor Kimberly McBroom (Screen shot, WDBJ) No manager gets out of bed in the morning expecting to have two of his staffers murdered. By a former station employee. On live TV. But that’s what happened to Jeff Marks, the General Manager of WDBJ in Roanoke, Virginia. In the seconds it took … Read More