Jill Geisler

Jill helps news managers learn how to lead her favorite people in the world - journalists. Good journalists, she points out, question authority and resist "spin." It takes exceptional leaders to build trust, along with the systems and culture that grow great journalism. In addition to teaching leadership styles, conflict resolution, collaboration, coaching, decision making and problem solving, she also teaches in the area of ethics and broadcast journalism. Her background as a TV news director, reporter, anchor and producer inform her teaching on broadcast issues as well as her work with print and online leaders.


Controlling business puppet concept

5 reasons managers are addicted to “fixing” – and how to recover

I admit it. I’m a recovering fixer. Show me a piece of copy and my fingers get itchy. I crave contact with a keyboard, with a gnawing urge to tweak someone’s writing a little — or maybe a lot.

Then I remind myself of the pledge I took years ago:

“Remember, Jill. Sit on your hands. Coach, don’t fix.”

I adopted that mantra so I’d have to learn how to help my newsroom staff improve their work without taking away their ownership, responsibility, and too often, their pride in performance. I’d have to learn to teach, not just do. Moreover, I’d need to teach in a way that would help people discover ideas and approaches for themselves, instead of just following instructions from the boss.… Read more

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So what the heck IS a good management style, anyway?

There are no perfect managers. Not Jill Abramson. Not Dean Baquet. Certainly not Jill Geisler when she ran a newsroom, and she’s now a leadership teacher, for heaven’s sake.

Every manager has strengths and challenges. And on any given day, you, as a boss, will disappoint someone.

You hire and promote people while rejecting others. You accept and advance one person’s idea but pass on someone else’s. You hold people accountable for quality and performance. You force them out of their comfort zones to learn new things (Hello, digital age.)  In tough economic times, you cancel projects they love, freeze or cut their salaries and lay off their talented friends.

And if you’re like most people, you do all that with little or no training in how to lead a team.… Read more

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In this Oct. 18, 2011 photo, traffic passes the New York Times building, Tuesday, in New York.  The New York Times Co. stock rose sharply on Thursday, July 26, 2012 after the media company reported that second-quarter revenue increased more than expected.   (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

New York Times’ Sulzberger took a risk; how about one more?

Arthur Sulzberger Jr.’s latest statement is a far cry from the May 14 New York Times news release about Jill Abramson’s departure, a missive that seems almost comically cordial now. Then, Sulzberger expressed his “sincere thanks” to her and she, in turn, thanked him for “the chance to serve,” calling him “a steadfast protector of our journalism.”

Addressing the staff that same day, Sulzberger would only describe the reason for the editor’s departure as “an issue with management in the newsroom.

Jill Abramson was gone and remained silent. Sulzberger thought he had said enough. But reports about the backstory surfaced from diggers like NPR’s David Folkenflik and The New Yorker’s Ken Auletta. The focus then turned, in large measure, to questions about compensation (was she the victim of pay discrimination?), style (was she really so tough to work for — and with?), the handling of her departure (why did it seem so cold-blooded?) and sexism (isn’t this just another example of women being sanctioned for behaviors that are valued in men?)

Then the world began to weigh in, with opinion pieces aplenty, including Poynter’s own, in which my colleague Kelly McBride and I both talked about the need for greater Times transparency about the firing.… Read more

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‘We spoke from the heart’: how a former journalist influenced coverage of his family members’ killings

Will Corporon left broadcast journalism nearly 20 years ago. Though he loved news, he felt compelled to make a career change. The 24/7 demands of TV kept him away from his family far too much, and he gravitated to insurance and financial services.

On April 13, when his father and nephew were killed outside the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City, his news instincts kicked back in.

But not at first.

There was too much else to deal with: The what-the-hellish shock of a phone call from his brother-in-law Len Losen, as Will, wife Heather and five of their blended family’s children had arrived in Tulsa for daughter Alli’s cheerleading competition. The maddeningly incomplete early information — that the beloved man who his family called “Popeye” and his community knew as Dr.… Read more

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Six questions to help managers get control of their time

As I scour today’s management literature, I’m struck by how much of it relates to personal productivity. We’re seeking secrets to working smarter. Getting more done. Becoming more effective. Learning when and how to say “no.”

Here’s the problem: We’re searching for a perfect answer in an imperfect world. I’m convinced there is absolutely no one-size-fits-all solution for gaining greater control of our time, output, stress and success.

Our time management strategies need to take into account our formal and informal responsibilities, workplace cultures, bosses, technology, training and our personal strengths, styles and quirks — not to mention the vast array of skills and needs of people who report to us.

That’s why I spend a lot of time coaching people in our seminars and workshops, so I can ask them targeted questions about their individual situations and help them discover solutions.… Read more

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Inside the Thunderdome newsroom: heartbreak and hustle

From leadership literature to commencement speeches, the message is: Don’t fear failure. It’s a gift that makes us stronger and wiser.

But that’s a heck of a lot easier to say — and believe — when you’re looking at failure in the rear view mirror, not while you’re in the midst of it.

As the people of Project Thunderdome will attest, failure is terribly painful.

Robyn Tomlin

Robyn Tomlin, Thunderdome’s editor who has taught at Poynter, calls its demise “heartbreaking.” She made her latest hire only a month ago. Things unfolded quickly after that, she said. A week ago she and editor-in-chief Jim Brady alerted staff to expect bad news.

But they did more. And that’s a leadership lesson in itself — about hustle amid heartbreak.… Read more

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And you thought the AP ruckus was just about style

Read Poynter’s Storify of reactions to the AP Stylebook “over”/”more than” revision, and you get a quick class in change management, especially about the emotional impact of change.

I’ve always taught leaders that change involves two key challenges: learning and letting go.

This time, for legions of teachers, editors, and grammar fans, it’s about unlearning. It’s about changing a standard of quality. And that is truly painful. It’s like telling people that effective immediately, the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard is as melodious as a harp.

For word nerds (a term I use with great affection), it’s also about letting go of a part of their expert identity. Those who’ve made a commitment to studying language, memorizing its rules, and protecting its integrity have been correcting and coaching others for years — either as vocation or avocation.… Read more

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A business man is sitting in the palm of his bosses hand on a white background. He looks unhappy and feels trapped and weak at his job. Use it for a strength or struggle concept. (Depositphotos)

Why employees resent a ‘Bigfoot Boss’

Great bosses often have big talent, big ideas and big reputations for excellence. But here’s what I’ve learned: Even when those respected leaders are larger than life, they have remarkably small feet.  Said another way: They don’t “Bigfoot” their employees. They don’t stomp like Sasquatch on their colleagues’ ambitions and successes.

Employees resent “Bigfoot Bosses” because they are takers. They rob people of opportunity, advancement and job satisfaction as they:

  • Take credit for the work of others
  • Take the spotlight when it could be shared
  • Take high-profile assignments for themselves
  • Take more control over their employees than is truly necessary

They may do it out of fear, insecurity, or some misguided response to that oft-heard business advice about “building your personal brand.”  But they are headed for disappointment.… Read more

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Future of News Audiences live blog: what we are hearing (2)

Moderator Al Tompkins, Poynter senior faculty broadcast and online, opens with information about digital viewing of video. Loading time for video is very important. Too slow, and people will abandon the effort.  “Load ‘em or Lose ‘em” — is key.

Tompkins says documentary viewership is on the increase. He shows a clip from Frontline’s “The Secret State of North Korea” and asks Raney Aronson-Rath, deputy executive producer, Frontline, about the viewership.

Aronson-Rath says was a complete surprise to Frontline — 50 percent above the average viewership for a broadcast.  Maybe it was the Dennis Rodman effect.  There was conversation about North Korea in the news and when a topic of a Frontline documentary is already in the news, the program does better.

The program had a 1.2 rating in the overnights, same as “League of Denial” — the program on the NFL that had lots of marketing support from PBS.… Read more

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Future of News Audiences live blog: what we are hearing

As news organizations struggle with increased competition and fragmented audiences, Poynter gathered about 30 top news executives and researchers on Jan. 26-27 to examine how consumers are changing and what those trends will mean for journalism. Here is some of what we are hearing. (Note: These are summaries of participants’ comments, not transcribed verbatim quotes. Follow along with Twitter hashtag  #newsaudiences.)

MONDAY
9:15 a.m. Audiences for News and Information that Serve Democracy  (Part One)

Poynter’s discussion on Audiences for News and Information that Serve Democracy (The Poynter Institute/Al Tompkins)

Vivian Schiller, Twitter head of news, leads the panel and asks: What are the biggest challenges you face in your organizations?

Marci McGinnis, senior vice president, newsgathering, Al Jazeera America Two challenges: 1. Branding.  The word ‘Al Jazeera’ comes with baggage and preconceptions.… Read more

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