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.

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6 dangerous biases of bosses

Integrity is the cornerstone of leadership.  For managers, intelligence — both cognitive and emotional — is important. But research says that employees rate trustworthiness as more important than competence in their managers.

I think that’s because so many managers lead people who are smarter than they are. The staff doesn’t expect the boss to be a genius; they want a supervisor they can trust.

Trust is confidence, in the face of risk, that another person will act with integrity. Tell the truth. Share credit. Take blame. Make decisions based on values. Reject prejudice.

We earn the trust of our team over time. But it takes vigilance to maintain it, even if we have the best of intentions. That’s because we tend to overestimate our own abilities and think we’re more reliable or principled than we really are.

We have blind spots and biases that can erode trust. We often discover that the hard way, through an obvious mistake or from candid feedback about our shortcomings.

To help ensure your feedback is positive, and your mistakes are minimized, here’s some help — Six dangerous biases of bosses, and how they appear in the workplace:

1. “I like you. You remind me of myself.”

This bias is so common that social scientists have a name for it: Similarity Attraction Effect. It leads us to be more approving, more empathetic — and more likely to hire and promote people like us.

It leads us to measure the behavior of others by the yardstick of what we ourselves would do. We see ourselves as the norm to which others should conform. Think about how limiting that can be and how damaging to a team’s potential for the creativity and innovation that come from diverse perspectives, personalities and experiences.

This bias is also cited as a key reason for continued pay and promotion disparities faced by women and minorities in the workplace. It’s not overt, old-fashioned “You Need Not Apply” kind of prejudice. It’s discomfort with and often misjudgment of others, the kind we examined in depth at a recent forum at the National Press Club. (Here’s video of the event.)

It’s not easy to hear that we all pack a little prejudice deep into our decision-making about others, but it’s a stepping stone to solutions.

2. “I hired you.”

When we bring a person onto our team, we’re telling the world, “I believe in this person.”  Since our credibility is on the line in a hire, we root for the best outcome and may be more inclined to give second chances. Even if we believe we wouldn’t unfairly favor our hires, it’s important to monitor our interactions with the rest of our staff, to make certain they see and feel that we’re equally invested in their success. We need to be clear about standards and excel at giving feedback to all, so when any employee does well, it’s clearly about performance, not preference.

This is especially important in an organization undergoing significant change. New hires may bring new skills and can be seen as allies or competitors to the current staff, depending on the leader’s approach.

I learned that lesson when my newsroom was going through a large expansion. We had switched network affiliations and doubled the hours of news we produced. I was determined to convince our strong staff that the influx of new teammates would meet their standards, so I involved them in the vetting process. One day, after a respected reporter looked over the impressive resume of a potential hire, I asked, “Is she good enough for our newsroom?”  He half-smiled and said, “I’m worried. She’s TOO good!”

It was his friendly way of reminding me that while I assumed he knew how much I respected folks like him, even top performers need to hear it loud and clear. I had made the mistake of just asking them to bless the newbies.

3. “I coached you.”

When we decide to help someone improve, we can fall victim to what I call “the coach’s bias.”  Coaches work closely with employees to identify things they should work on and how — and that very focus causes us to see the glass half full instead of half empty.  Coaches note small improvements and point them out, to encourage people to keep on track and try harder.

Meanwhile, others are more likely to see the objective and bigger picture of the work still to be done and the performance gaps unfilled.

Again, learn from my mistakes. I hired a reporter who had no TV experience, but a solid track record for getting good stories. Because he was nervous on-air and it showed, I worked with him as a coach. He was getting incrementally better, so I gave him a spot on our election night coverage. As he sweated — and we squirmed — through his not-great live shots, the producer and I kept saying, “Well, he’s better than he was. He’s getting there…”

The next morning, we reviewed of our coverage with our general manager, who saw things without the “coach’s bias” — only the vantage point of a viewer. He was blunt. He told us the reporter had no business being on the air in that high-pressure, totally ad-lib situation.

He was right. Bias had clouded my judgment. I did a disservice to the audience and to the reporter by seeing only his baby steps toward improvement. I kept working with him, though, far more direct about his need to make election night just a bad memory.  Eventually, he turned out fine — and I learned a lesson about bias.

4. “I put a stake in the ground.”

When we make a public statement, it’s hard to reverse course. We can dig in to that decision and convince ourselves we’re right, when what we’re really doing is saving face. That’s what makes change so hard in organizations, as people confuse positions with principles.

Here’s what I mean. You may have heard a manager say things like this:

  • I won’t hire someone with less than 3 years’ experience.
  • I won’t promote someone who doesn’t come in and pitch hard for the job.
  • I don’t praise people for doing what they’re supposed to do.

Managers hang their hats on such ideas, which may have worked for them in some way at some time. Meanwhile, others may see the downside to those positions much more clearly than the boss. The organization may miss out on a brilliant young candidate, or a chance to diversify the team, or lose an up-and-coming employee who feels unappreciated. Those who see those downsides are in a tough spot. It’s not always easy to speak truth to power, especially when the Powerful One thinks righteousness demands rigidity.

That’s why managers should think carefully before declaring “always/never” manifestos, and be open to the possibility that their past positions can blind them to both consequences and possibilities. When a person of integrity says, “I’ve rethought this” or better yet, “I was wrong,” it can build credibility. (Just don’t do it daily. That builds incredulity.)

5. “I used to do that job.”

It’s easy to have an affinity for work that was a big part of your career, especially if you were good at it. Your knowledge and fondness can lead you to pay greater attention to that area, to favor it in staffing, budgeting or equipment.  It can also make you be more critical of it and micromanage it.

I recall a newly appointed managing editor telling me he realized how often he gravitated toward the investigative team’s desks, where he used to work. He walked right past other employees, sending the message, “Here’s what’s important to me,” when all he was really doing was heading to a comfort zone.  When he understood the impact, he changed his habits.

Just know that those whose jobs you’ve never done are watching you, eager to see if you can overcome your bias of experience, and learn to see the world through their eyes. There’s nothing like a manager who demonstrates a genuine interest in learning what it takes to do a job successfully — and acts on it.

6. “I’m under pressure to deliver.”

We can talk ourselves into some bad decisions when we frame a situation as “strictly business.” It makes it too easy to exclude other important considerations.

The business ethics professors who wrote “Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What’s Right and What to Do about It” point out that humans approach decisions with two identities, their “want selves” (emotional, impulsive)  and their “should selves” (rational, thoughtful). We’d like to think we operate under our “should selves” as managers. But under workplace pressures, a phenomenon they call “ethical fading” may kick in when we’re being pressured for results:

Our visceral responses are so dominant at the time of the decision that they overshadow all other considerations. We want to help our company maintain its market share. We want to earn profits and bonuses. As a result, want wins and should loses. It is only later, behavioral ethics researchers argue, that we engage in any type of moral reasoning. The purpose of this moral reasoning is not to arrive at a decision — it is too late for that — but to justify the decision we’ve already made.

This doesn’t mean all managers chuck their moral compasses in service to the bottom line. It simply alerts us that it takes both awareness and courage to be the voice that raises issues of ethics, diversity, safety, quality, promise-keeping, compassion or community when others may want to narrow a conversation to short-term business objectives only.

It takes awareness and courage to combat any of these six dangerous biases. We can commit to being vigilant and more self-aware. We can ask for feedback from others and take it to heart. We can use our influence to help colleagues do the same.

It’s a challenge, but it comes with a payoff: a reputation as a trusted leader.

* * *

How should you respond if someone suggests you have a bias? I’ll share tips in this “What Great Bosses Know” companion podcast.

Read more

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.

Now, in my leadership workshops, when I identify myself as a recovering fixer, I ask if there are any others like me in the room.

I’m never alone.

Many of the aspiring great bosses my workshops say they, too, are hooked on fixing. They’re also the ones who play catch-up on all their other daily duties as they hand-polish the work of others. But it’s become their way of life. Maybe it’s your reality, too.

Why are managers so addicted to fixing? I’ve identified top five reasons:

1. Vanity: Your company promoted you to management because you were really good at your craft – a top producer. Now, your supervisory duties are different from the front line work at which you excelled, and it’s hard to give up something you love. So, when a chance to demonstrate your old chops presents itself, you can’t resist.

2. Efficiency: To review a piece of work with the person who produced it takes time. For expediency sake, you just repair it. You hope the employee will learn from the changes you made, as if by osmosis. You’re wrong, of course. But you do it anyway.  Again and again.

3. Quality: You have high standards. The one person whose performance always meets the mark is – you. So, for quality assurance, you assign yourself the task, even though it adds to your list of duties and often lengthens your work days (and nights and weekends.)

4. Responsibility: You never want to let your organization down. You’re dedicated to making deadlines, achieving goals and beating the competition. When anything on your watch isn’t as good as you think it could be, you personally deliver the solution. (Even though others could, should and probably would do their part, if you used the right leadership skills to guide them.)

5. Incapacity: Fixing is the lone tool in your repair kit. You’re capable of critiquing a product by saying, “This doesn’t work for me,” but you can’t articulate the why and how of that assessment in detail. You don’t yet know the right words that describe a path to improvement. You’re talented, but you haven’t learned how to coach. So you keep relying on what you know – jumping into the fray – and you miss opportunities for both you and your staff to grow.

Your addiction to fixing causes problems.

By fixing, you let mediocre performers off the hook. They can keep churning out substandard work because you’ve led them to assume it’s YOUR job to elevate it, not theirs. You’ve created an assembly line where they produce a first draft and expect you’ll doctor it up.

Meanwhile, you’re frustrated, and wonder why they never seem to get better.

On the other end of the spectrum, the high performers on your team resent your interference. They are proud of their work and may feel you’re hijacking it, just to put your own mark on things. Even if you’re making minor modifications, you come across as the “corrections officer” rather than the coach who helps them discover options, try new things, see what they’ve overlooked and enjoy taking good work to an even higher level.

How do you become a coach instead of a fixer?  Here are some tips:

  • Become a student of quality work, including your own. Deconstruct it; take it apart to identify the decisions, the process, the steps that built it from the ground up.  None of us “just does it.”  We operate through a series of identifiable actions with certain assumptions and values attached. If it’s writing, for example, look at a resource like Poynter’s inexpensive e-book “Secrets of Prize-Winning Journalism” that puts the work of top performers under a microscope and asks them questions about how that quality came to life. Familiarize yourself with the answers.
  • Develop coaching language. Once you see distinct pieces, parts, techniques or barriers related to quality, name them. Build your own book of smart, descriptive terms. There’s a famous phrase around Poynter; “Get the name of the dog.” It’s shorthand coaching language for: Stories are made memorable by key details, as in “The firefighter stepped out of the still-smoking house, cradling a dog Buddy in his arms.” In my journey to become a coach, I built my own coaching lexicon. To help writers remember how passive voice can take the life out a sentence, I’d massacre a Bob Marley/Eric Clapton hit by singing, “The Sheriff Was Shot By Me.” They got the point. Have fun; craft a coaching language that works for your craft and for your team.
  • Remember the power of questions. The most important tool a coach has is a question. How can I help? What’s your goal here? Can you think of another way to do this that’s less complicated? What would happen if…?  Being good at asking questions helps people discover their own answers, which you can then applaud and they can then execute. When I made the commitment to be a writing coach instead of a fixer, I started each review of a story by asking the writer: “What do you love about this story?” It turned out to be a very effective opener.  Most writers would talk about a few things they really liked, but often blurted out what they were concerned about, making it an easier coaching opportunity. My “love” question also let them know I expected people to care about every story, every day. For the record, once you make questions your primary coaching tool, you can also give direct advice. But do that strategically and sparingly, so people don’t revert to being dependent on your wisdom instead of their own.
  • Enjoy a new level of satisfaction in your work. Where once it was all about “What I produced today,” it’s now about “My employees’ success.” Your fingerprints aren’t all over the good work. In fact, your input is almost invisible to an outside observer. But you and to your grateful team know the real story. The work, the workers and the workplace are all improved when a fixer becomes a coach.

Remember, great bosses don’t fix the product, they coach the people.

* * *

Coaching also works to help people make better everyday decisions, too. More on that in the companion podcast to this column:
Read more

Jill Abramson_AP

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. Your training was in journalism, or in whatever craft in which you performed well enough for your bosses to say, “We like what you do, so how ’bout we put you in charge of that work?”

But you don’t just manage work. There’s this matter of leading the people who perform it — human beings who bring their hopes, talents, deficiencies and personality quirks to the job with them.

They are people, not just producers. They aren’t all like you and even the best of them don’t — and don’t want to — do things exactly the way you did when you were a top performer.

That’s where management really gets tricky, and the temptations are great:

It would be so easy if you could only:

  • Captain a team of journalists who question authority and resist spin, except when it comes to you.
  • Hire employees who are just like you, because they make you so comfortable.
  • Focus strictly on results, not the folks who get you there.
  • Tell them, “If you don’t hear from me, assume you’re doing a good job,” so you skip chit-chat and focus on tasks you really like.
  • Deliver criticism whenever and however you damn well please.
  • Expect people to conform to you, whatever your strengths or shortcomings, because you’re in charge.

I’ve just described the bad old days, didn’t I? — a time when bosses could be behave like tyrants and discriminate indiscriminately (who wants women and minorities to crash the club, right?), and have all that be perfectly acceptable so long as their team (happy or miserable) cranked out some good work. Sometimes even that wasn’t necessary, as long the boss made budget.

Times have changed. Businesses and business schools began to focus on leadership, not just management. The goal was to improve the product and the process by looking at how people at work are hired, trained, engaged, motivated, and, yes, even inspired.

The goal was to figure out how to have more employees say things like this about their managers:

He has a fantastic ability to listen to criticism and act positively on that criticism. He is good at selecting the right person for the job, and is genuinely liked by his colleagues. He inspires confidence and brings out the best in people.  He is good at working as part of a large team with many conflicting ideas and agendas. It’s fun to be at work when he is the boss.

That quote is from a 360-degree feedback report for a manager in one of our Poynter leadership seminars. When I wrote my book, “Work Happy: What Great Bosses Know,” I illustrated great and not-so-great behaviors with these real responses about managers, to show what an impact they have.

With good grim humor, she has helped lead us through a severe downsizing. She has done this by reminding us what our core mission is, and if we focus on that we’ll be all right. And she has led by example, by getting down to work and not whining, and proving we can do it.

Or this:

What can you say about an editor you trust completely, who you know would do anything for you and your story, who inspires you, who makes work not seem like work at all?  If I could get her to be the editor of my life, I’d be a better person.

So what do these managers do better than others?  They look at their relationships with employees as a series of transactions. Produce enough good outcomes from each of those transactions and you build social capital.  Social capital is a bank of trust and good will that gets you through the rough times, when your role as a manager requires you to disappoint someone, or when you simply make a mistake.

When supervisors are committed to having high-quality transactions, people who are criticized aren’t crushed, people whose ideas don’t get accepted aren’t made to feel stupid, people who do well get deserved credit, and folks aren’t left wondering where they stand in the organization or if they even matter at all.

There’s something else the best managers do: they understand that their moods and behaviors are contagious. Their energy, enthusiasm and optimism set a tone in the workplace. They have — or learn to develop — a good degree of social and emotional intelligence. They can read people, read situations, read a whole darn room and respond accordingly. (I always said that my job as a manager was to get calm when the team got nervous and get nervous when the newsroom’s too calm.)

They know what management style fits best for which situation:

  • A commanding, top-down leadership style is the right fit for crisis or when risky decisions must be made, when employees expect calm and in-control boss. But that style is self-defeating if used for all occasions because people feel micromanaged.
  • A pacesetting style, raising the bar and constantly challenging people, can jump-start a sluggish team. But a group of high performers (especially those who are smarter than their bosses — and many are) will rebel in the face of relentless “not good enoughs” from their leader.
  • A democratic style that demonstrates empathy gets people through tough times. Democratic leaders tend to bring people together for a voice in decisions (if not necessarily a vote) when buy-in is important during change. But used too much or in the wrong situations, it can create a conflict-averse culture with slow decision-making.
  • A visionary style can help people see and feel the importance of a mission and a goal when they are up against uncertainty and challenge. But if it’s big talk and little execution, employees feel manipulated, not motivated.

Authors like Daniel Goleman, who delves deeper into those styles in his book Primal Leadership will tell you most managers have a “default” style of managing — behaviors they fall into instinctively. But the best ones know how to shift out of that style and into another that’s better for the moment. They do it comfortably and carefully, so it’s not an act. It’s simply knowing how to match the right dance to the right music.

It’s hard work. It’s why, if you don’t mind the shameless plug, leadership training is important. I know it could have saved me (and spared my team) from some of my managerial mistakes. It’s why I take special delight in working with new managers and applaud organizations that identify emerging leaders and provide them with some schooling even before they’re promoted.

Because at the end of the day — or make that the work day — the secret to a smart supervisor’s success is this:

Manage yourself, so you can lead others.

I share more insights in this companion podcast:

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. Much of the commentary came from women — about women.

It’s understandable.

At a time when women in journalism earn 17 percent less than men, when Abramson’s departure leaves no top 10 paper with a woman in the editor’s chair, when women are still underrepresented in the leadership ranks of many professions, when Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg wants us to “ban bossy,” a master narrative began to emerge: This firing must have been strictly about gender, power and money.

And that apparently didn’t ring true to the man who made the decision to fire Jill Abramson.

In an act that likely caused heartburn for attorneys and HR people, who traditionally counsel leaders to keep personnel reviews private, even in the face of public criticism, Sulzberger re-opened the conversation — with the kind of detail rarely shared about managerial performance. He said:

During her tenure, I heard repeatedly from her newsroom colleagues, women and men, about a series of issues, including arbitrary decision-making, a failure to consult and bring colleagues with her, inadequate communication and the public mistreatment of colleagues.  I discussed these issues with Jill herself several times and warned her that, unless they were addressed, she risked losing the trust of both masthead and newsroom.  She acknowledged that there were issues and agreed to try to overcome them.  We all wanted her to succeed.  It became clear, however, that the gap was too big to bridge and ultimately I concluded that she had lost the support of her masthead colleagues and could not win it back.

That statement carries with it no small amount of risk, including ridicule from disbelievers or litigation by his former employee, especially if her separation agreement contains a common non-disparagement clause. (To learn more about them, you could always check out this January New York Times Op-Ed piece.)

Those are risks Arthur Sulzberger is willing to take in defense of his decision, his paper’s reputation, and his own legacy. He closed his statement by speaking about — and then apparently on behalf of — the women in his organization:

We are very proud of our record of gender equality at The New York Times. Many of our key leaders – both in the newsroom and on the business side – are women.  So too are many of our rising stars.  They do not look for special treatment, but expect to be treated with the same respect as their male colleagues.  For that reason they want to be judged fairly and objectively on their performance…

May I suggest he engage in one more risk? Be introspective. Ask the women of the Times about the status of women at the paper today: their pay, their evaluations, their promotions, their ability to have their ideas gain traction and to influence change. Is the pride in “our record of gender equality” shared widely? How do you know?

If there’s work to be done, lay out a plan for improvement (just as the recent deep-dive analysis of the paper’s digital shortcomings and need for culture change away from print-centrism did so clearly) — and share it.

If the findings are positive, then by all means be transparent about that, too. The world could use some good news about women in the workplace. And don’t hesitate to note, if credit is indeed due, that whatever her “management issue,” Jill Abramson helped other strong, smart women succeed at The New York Times. Read more


‘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. William Lewis Corporon — had been shot, but nothing further. The second call from Will’s mother Melinda, 20 minutes or so later, telling him his father was dead and no one at that moment knew the status of Will’s 14-year-old nephew Reat Underwood, who had also been shot and was rushed away by ambulance.

Will and Heather moved quickly, leaving their older children in Tulsa with Heather’s mom, grabbing toddler Olivia and heading out, first for their home in Northwest Arkansas to make arrangements for the children’s needs in the uncertain week ahead. En route, the next assault of sorrow: In a call that Will describes as “sad but sad times a thousand,” they learned that Reat, too, was gone.

A recent picture of Dr. William Lewis Corporon and his grandson Reat Griffin Underwood. Both were shot and killed April 13. (Will Corporon photo)

Heather Corporon’s training as a nurse led her to take charge in her own way, packing, organizing, comforting — and driving, often with one hand on the wheel and the other holding Will’s.

On that three-hour slog from their Arkansas home to what he describes as “a big pile of human suffering” in Kansas City, Will Corporon realized he had a job to do, and called on skills he’d honed in the 10 years he spent as a TV photographer, producer, assignment editor and news director. The killings of his kin had become a national, even international, story and he would make certain it was told right.

Will’s family told him the Overland Park Hospital’s public relations department was working on a news release and wanted him to review it. The draft contained no victim identifications and few details, an earnest effort by the hospital to give the family time to share the news with their closest circle first.

But from the passenger seat of a Ford Expedition, with little Olivia watching Barney videos in back, Will took a different tack and began coordinating his family’s coverage — his way.  With their approval, he rewrote the release and filled it with details that mattered most to the family:

It is with deep sadness that we confirm the tragic loss of Dr. William Lewis Corporon and Reat Griffin Underwood (Losen) who died as a result of the injuries they sustained in today’s shooting at the Jewish Community Center.  Dr. Corporon was Reat’s Grandfather, whom he loved very much.

Dr. Corporon leaves behind his wife of 49 years and a loving and devoted family and extended family.  Dr. Corporon practiced family medicine in Marlow and Duncan,  Oklahoma from 1976 through 2003, when he and his wife moved to the Kansas City area to be closer to their grandchildren.  He was a well-loved physician in the Johnson County community,  cherished his family and more than anything had a passion for caring for others.

Reat was a 14 year-old Freshman at Blue Valley High School – a school he loved.   Reat participated in debate, theatre and had a beautiful voice.  Reat had a passion for life, and touched so many people in his young age.  Reat was an Eagle Scout and loved spending time camping and hunting with his Grandfather, Father, and brother.  Both Reat and Dr. Corporon were very proud supporters of the University of Oklahoma and it’s sports teams.

We would like to thank our friends, family and our church, the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, and school community for the outpouring of love and support during this very difficult time.  We take comfort knowing they are together in Heaven.

We ask for privacy as we mourn the loss of our beloved Dr. Corporon and Reat.

Thank you very much,
Will Corporon, Son and Uncle

At the same time, he dispatched his mother, brother and sister to find the best possible photos of Popeye and Reat, preferably together, and email them to him. On his iPad, he began editing and distributing those photos to the many news outlets whose email requests had been forwarded to him by the hospital PR staff. According to Will, “Within minutes those beautiful photos of my dad and his beloved grandson were being shown on every channel in the country and around the world. It happened that fast.”

Will and his sister Mindy, Reat’s mother, took the same proactive approach to speaking to the media. When I saw coverage of him addressing reporters, I realized that this man was the same Will Corporon I’d met in a Poynter seminar in the early ’90s, when he was news director of KAIT-TV in Jonesboro, Arkansas.

Will Corporon, left, and his father, Dr. William Lewis Corporon (Will Corporon photo)

I watched news anchors comment about the family’s stoicism, grace and faith, and I wondered how Will got through it all. And as I thought about what an important story he had to share with journalists, he was thinking the same thing, and reached out to me.

We talked at length, he shared journal entries he’s writing that might become a book, and he responded to a list of questions I emailed him for this story.  He also granted me permission to edit his answers for clarity and brevity:

Jill: Would you share more about your decision to get in front of the story quickly – to provide details and distribute photos?

Will: I decided that if we were going to get something public it needed to immediately begin to tell their story — the victims’ story — and not the perp’s. At that point, I had little to no info about him and didn’t want any, frankly. So I added personal info to the release and at the same time asked my brother, sister, and mom to email me pictures of Dad and Reat asap. They had a few in their phones … .

Knowing the media has deadlines — knowing television needs pictures — knowing journalists need “human stories,” I knew we could not hide and try to be private. We had to provide information or the media would do whatever they had to in order to get their own pictures and stories. And that would not be good. Then our privacy could be compromised. The dignity of of my Father and Reat would be compromised.

Jill: You mentioned to me that several of the occasions in which you and your sister Mindy — Reat’s mother — spoke publicly, it was spontaneous, not something you planned. What led you to be as available and candid as you were?

Will: We wanted to portray our father and son/nephew/grandson in the best possible light. There is no way to do that given the circumstances without showing our grief. You can’t have one without the other. So there was no forethought to how we portrayed ourselves. We were just honest. We spoke from the heart.

As far as availability, I fielded calls from newspapers and local TV and networks. We were somewhat selective. I chose “CBS Evening News” on the Monday after the Sunday murders. I enjoyed the conversation with the producer, Ryan. I also liked that the story was going to be the lead and was going to focus on our family. Lastly, the correspondent was Dean Reynolds. I have respected his work since I started my journalism career back in the 1980s. My sister chose to be on the “Today” show because she liked Savannah Guthrie and felt she would do a good job asking her questions.

I guess that just goes to show that reputations built over years, or in just a few seconds, can make all the difference when a reporter or producer is working a source. As it turns out, the choices we made were good ones. We were very pleased with the way both news programs treated us and the memories of Dad and Reat.

Jill: The killing of William Lewis Corporon, Reat Underwood and Terri LaManno (the third victim, shot at a second location) was local, national and international news. How do you assess the performance of news organizations? Does any one organization or journalist stand out — for better or worse?

Will: I was really impressed with some of the local Kansas City blogs and some of the local KC news magazines (newspaper inserts with local columnists) … . We didn’t watch TV a lot. There was nothing that was negative. Those we dealt with were all very professional. I was very happy and pleasantly surprised. I hate to say that, but I figured at some point I would have someone who would overstep. But it didn’t happen. Everyone I dealt with was sympathetic. Professional and understanding.

Jill: As you faced national and local media, you spoke in detail about your faith. You told me you were pleasantly surprised that your spiritual message wasn’t tuned out or edited out but featured prominently in coverage. Why?

Will: I know from being in the media and from nearly 20 years watching from the outside that often people who express their faith are either ignored or perhaps lightly ridiculed. Perhaps with a  smirk. Usually I think the soundbites we hear of people talking about God or Jesus (in the case of Christians) may lend credence to people thinking “those people sound a little nuts.” Perhaps that’s my own bias speaking.

We’ve all seen the aftermath of storms where people are interviewed climbing out of rubble — usually a trailer — thanking their Creator, often without thinking about what they are saying or how it will be perceived. It is raw emotion. And that is what drives live television and live-to-tape reactions. It’s what makes TV news so good — but it’s also what drives so many viewers crazy. Especially those of us who want to elaborate a little more about our “religion” than just, “Thank you, Lord Jesus, for savin’ us from that twister.” I am not trying to be humorous. Trying to make a point … .

I think in our case we were able to be more thoughtful because it was not spot news. We had time before, during, and after each interview to think about what we said and how we might say it the next time. In fact, much of what we said we have been hearing all our lives from our pastors and leaders in church and way back in youth groups. I think when this horrible thing happened we were prepared, DIVINELY prepared, to not only deal personally and as a family with such tragedy, but also to show those who were watching that God’s grace was present in such an evil situation.

Jill: Do you have advice for citizens and journalists who become part of stories like yours?

Will: I think journalists have to work very hard to remain human. It is an easy thing to say, “Leave out your opinions and report facts.” But in a story like this, I think it cries for the human side. And in order to do that, I think the reporters (producers, anchors, editors, photographers, etc. …) who do the best are the ones who can see everything unfold through HUMAN eyes.

We didn’t get the “how do you feel” questions. We didn’t get the questions about the bad guy. We got the questions we wanted. We got the questions we were willing to answer — about our family. We did make it clear prior to interviews that we would not answer questions about the killer and, thankfully, we didn’t have anyone violate that.

I think that newsrooms should have regular meetings (perhaps annual) where they review these kinds of stories. Perhaps ones they covered or perhaps one that has been worked up in a teaching way from an organization like Poynter. I think one of the problems with the 24-hour news cycle is taking time to get adequate continuing education. I guess I really have no leg to stand on here since I am no longer a practicing journalist but I’ll bet I am right, at least in most newsrooms. The drive for more and more news — finish one newscast and move quickly to the next — does not provide much time for reflection, let alone stopping for full-scale evaluation and training.

I also think that shying away from anything faith-related is a mistake. A huge percentage of this country goes to church, or synagogue, or Mass, or whatever. Why shy away from it? Report on important issues. Talk about it. Take a leadership position. Even talk about a lack of faith as a faith. Cover it all. I think it would be really good and I think it is something that is sorely missing in journalism today.

Dr. William Corporon, known to his family as “Popeye,” holding his granddaughter, baby Olivia Corporon, who “loved to perch on her grandfather’s generous belly.” (Will Corporon photo)

A Postscript

Will and I exchanged many messages as I double-checked information and he sent me photos, including one of his dad and little Olivia, who Will says loved to perch on her grandfather’s generous belly. 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.

What I offer now is a bit more impersonal, but it’s a quick series of questions for you, just like the ones I’d ask face-to-face. You’re busy, so I’ve kept the list short.

Consider this a two-minute drill. Read the questions, jot an answer — then decide what your next steps will be.

Six Questions to Help You Get Control of Your Time

1. Which of my many tasks can or should be done by only me?

2. What do my bosses and my best people need most from me?

3. What duties, if I delay doing them, will cause significant problems for others?

4. What are my worst time-wasting temptations?

5. What skill have I put off learning that is holding me back?

6. Is there something I should keep doing, even if it isn’t the most efficient, because it gives me pure joy?

Since I’m not able to go over your responses with you, try this: Identify a colleague whose judgment you respect and trust. Invest another 15 minutes in a conversation with that person. Share your answers and your next steps. Invite that person to ask you a few more good questions and then to keep an eye on your progress.

If you have a little more time to spare, listen to this podcast in which I explain the importance of each question. (You can also download the entire “What Great Bosses Know” podcast series on ITunes U, and play it at your convenience.  You know, in all that free time you now have.)

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Robin Tomlin_Poynter

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.

In past week, the Project Thunderdome offices in New York became a job placement center. According to Tomlin, she and Brady have been on the phones, working their wide network of contacts to let other organizations know about the soon-to-be-available talent on their team.

Staffers on that 55-person team have been conducting sessions for each other on resume writing, salary negotiations, and even doing mock interviews. They’ve encouraged each other to polish up their profiles and portfolios on Insidethunderdome.com’s “About Us” page, to make it easier for prospective employers to vet them.

Many of the staff have experienced layoffs before. Some are veterans of the TBD digital initiative Brady led, which shut down in 2011. And though many TBD alums did well after its demise, the transition from joblessness to gainful employment can take a toll on both pocketbook and psyche.

It’s especially rough when the displacement destroys a work group which shared a genuine sense of mission and, according to Tomlin, were carefully hired for their team orientation. That’s underscored in a note Davis Shaver, Thunderdome’s technology strategist, sent to his co-workers today, which read, in part:

Thunderdome is the aggregate of the relationships we’ve made, maintained, and inspired. Thunderdome was an idea, a rallying cry – John and Jim and Robyn trying to tell DFM that we will not go quietly into the night. We weren’t always successful with our efforts, but the fact that we tried, that we were in the business of innovation, that striving inspired DFM journalists, and truly the industry at large. Hence the reaction we’re seeing today.

Thunderdome is the aggregate of the relationships we’ve made, maintained, and inspired. It is our inter-newsroom bonds, and our intra-newsroom communities. It’s Buttry in the field, our educator-in-chief. It’s Tom visiting newsrooms, spreading the gospel of data. It’s Gary, tackling the amorphous hydra that is sports journalism and making connections across myriad markets. It’s Courtney working with Jessica to make those delightful GIFs, Fuentes working with Jason and Daniel to build an awesome content explorer tool. Laura leading her team to think about user centered design, Julie building a kickass breaking news dynamo with the help of people like Karen (who showed us how to write webby headlines) and Kim (who moonlights as the tweet queen behind a prolific journalism chat). These connections… These relationships… That’s Thunderdome to me.

While talking up her “amazing group of people,” Tomlin tells me she hasn’t decided what she will do next in her own career. She’s not sure whether she’ll keep leading in legacy media or try the world of pure plays. Because Thunderdome’s shutdown will happen on a rolling basis, she hopes to guide each person and piece of it to a soft landing.

And, yes, it hurts. In her words, she’s “in mourning.”

Tomlin told me, “We still feel like we’re fighting for the future of journalism. We just won’t be doing it together.” 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. They’ve righteously talked or tussled with writers about “more than” and “over” — citing the AP Stylebook as the argument settler. Now the argument is over. Wrong is now right. On this one, everyone’s now the expert.

Expertise is a powerful commodity. In fact, research says that competence and mastery are potent intrinsic motivators. (Watch Daniel Pink’s video — it’s had nearly 12 million views.)

Human beings love to do what they do well. When you tell people their mastery doesn’t matter  — even if it’s just letting go of a lone, longstanding grammar point — you see the reaction. Twitter erupts in lamentations from the experts. There’s also laughter from those who’ve been on the receiving end of “over”/”more than” copy edits, as they’ve miraculously become more competent. What a lesson in the emotions that accompany change.

It doesn’t help that this change simply happened. When change is imposed, resistance rises. When people feel they are part of the process, they adapt more quickly.  Even if they don’t get a vote,  people at least want a voice — a chance for input and insight.

When they don’t get that voice before change occurs, they can get plenty loud afterward. The torrent of comments on Twitter and elsewhere proves that point. It’s creative, clever, rebellious, passionate — and I love it. It’s what wordsmiths do best when challenged by change; they craft their own narratives around it.

I also love the idea that individuals and organizations are talking about what they’ll do next. Will they adapt the AP style? Reject it? Why?  With what process? With whose input?

Imagine that: Another exercise in managing change. Learning. Letting go. Look what the AP started. Read more

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.

Managers with a reputation for bigfooting others are unlikely to be seen as true leaders.  What they gain in short-term glory or power, they lose in respect and collaboration — and ultimately undermine their own success.

Wharton professor Adam Grant, author of one of my favorite books,”Give and Take,” has done extensive research about the impact of selfishness and selflessness in the workplace. Bosses, or people who aspire to management, should heed what Grant says in an essay for a business magazine:

In a wide range of fields that span manufacturing, service, and knowledge work, recent research has shown that employees with the highest rates of promotion to supervisory and leadership roles exhibit the characteristics of givers—helping colleagues solve problems and manage heavy workloads. Takers, who put their own agenda first, are far less likely to climb the corporate ladder.

So, how do you make certain that your staff doesn’t consider you a Bigfoot Boss, someone who puts your own agenda first?  Here are my tips:

  • Be proactive about giving credit to others.

Start with the assumption that you are honor-bound to give credit where it’s due. Then realize it takes more than good intentions to do it right.  Research says we often over-value our efforts and under-report those of others. After all, It’s easiest to remember our own contributions, but we’re less skilled at noticing and recalling all the efforts of others. Social scientists call this “egocentric bias.” But it can be mitigated by vigilance.  Pay close attention to what others are doing well, take notes if need be — so you don’t even inadvertently shortchange people.

  • Set the record straight when you are given excessive credit.

Be an advocate for accurate, genuine appreciation and recognition. Never let mistaken kudos stand, especially when the error builds you up at the expense of others. When you know that people have been left out of the credit conversation or their contributions have been minimized, speak up.  You may have to correct your own boss, but if you do it diplomatically, it will be appreciated by everyone involved.

  • Give employees a “seat at the table.” 

Look for opportunities to involve people in key meetings or gatherings. Be strategic about putting the right individuals into the right situations so they can show what they know, learn more and get opportunities to step up. Tell staffers why you are including them. Set them up to succeed by coaching them about the personalities, procedures and politics they’ll encounter.

  • Think twice before grabbing that coveted assignment for yourself.

Why are you taking the lead in this work? Will it fail without you at the helm? Is it especially risky? Or is it just potentially high-profile and rewarding? If it’s the latter, then how can you share this opportunity with others?  You don’t have to step away from all high-visibility, high-impact, or high-fun work — but you can certainly share the wealth.

  • Resist the temptation to put your footprints on everything. 

Bigfoot Bosses are often micromanagers. They may think they are improving the work by their close inspection, or worse, by keeping a hand in the process. Meanwhile, their excessive control is strangling their staff, especially their most competent employees.  Autonomy — a sense of control and independence — is a key intrinsic motivator.  Bigfoot micromanagers steal not just pride of authorship, but the authorship itself from employees. That’s a guaranteed demotivator.

If you want to keep employees engaged, give them as much autonomy as you can along with the every bit credit they’ve earned. As I write in my book, “Work Happy, What Great Bosses Know“:

We live in a world that shines the spotlight on the top leader. Widen the beam at every opportunity. When there’s a success, credit your co-leaders. Make it absolutely clear when their ideas, solutions or just plain hard work are the driving force behind wins and wise moves. When they mess up, stand with them and take your lumps. Then work together to find solutions.

Here’s the bottom line, bosses: If you do your best to keep from bigfooting others, something magical happens. When you take the next step up in your career, people will applaud your success. In fact, they’ll say you’ll be tough act to follow.

That’s because, despite leading with undersized feet, you’ll leave mighty big shoes to fill.

* * *

In the companion podcast to this column, I share a few more thoughts about avoiding a “Bigfoot Boss” reputation.

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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.

Aronson-Rath says they know a lot about who watches Frontline.  It tends to be people in their mid-50s, the youngest PBS audience in prime time. As for the online audience, 75 percent of those viewers are under the age of 49.  Frontline is finding more women viewing its programs online. Frontline has a really tech-savvy audience, early adapters to DVR and Tivo, who watch weeks after original broadcasts air.

On Frontline’s website, people watch for about 7-8 minutes.  They may go away and come back later.  The tablet is extraordinary.  People watch on tablets 15 minutes and up.  They lean back and watch. (On the air, people tend to stay with the program longer, through the various quarters as measured by Nielsen.)

Tamara Gould, senior vice president of national productions and strategic partnerships, Independent Television Services, ITVS, which funds documentaries says ITVS is able to fund one percent of the applications for funding that it gets from documentary makers.

Kathy Im, director, media, culture and special initiatives, MacArthur Foundation, says filmmakers have to do more than just long-form storytelling. They have to find ways to disseminate the information they gather in various forms and on a variety of platforms. MacArthur supports filmmakers with experience or capacity to be accepted by a national broadcast and have impact.  It also will look for coverage of a community that hasn’t been covered. Sometimes it only takes one key decision-maker who’s been embarrassed by the revelations in a documentary or can do something about it to act — then that program has impact.

We see a clip from last year’s documentary on Independent Lens, “The Invisible War” about sexual violence in the military, which reported that half a million women have been assaulted while in military service. Tamara Gould says this film changed the law, so military commanders can no longer overturn a military tribunal’s decision and also requires civilian review boards if tribunals decline to prosecute in cases of alleged rape.

Gould says the documentary had 2.1 million viewers, 34.1 media impressions, and 33 million social media followers. By commercial TV standards, that would not be a business success story. For ITVS, a funding organization that believes in in-depth and investigative journalism, the movie’s impact on society was the success.

Im of MacArthur says there is both a timeliness and a timelessness factor involved in documentaries it funds, because the work lives on as a historical record.

Aronson-Rath of Frontline says the documentary series is building new audiences by building new partnerships, sharing information and exclusives with other platforms to build attention in advance of a program’s airing.

The overall message of the session: documentaries are alive and well and the panelists believe there is a hunger for more in-depth reporting.

2 p.m. Audiences for News and Information that Serve Democracy (2)

Moderator Betsy Morgan, president, The Blaze asks Daniel Slotwiner, head of measurement solutions, Facebook, about the Facebook’s effort to quantify how people align their Facebook use with TV viewing. Facebook’s experiment has tracked about 40 TV shows to see if there is a connection between the Facebook chatter about TV shows with ratings. He says it is too soon to report any predictive results.

Daniel Slotwiner, head of measurement solutions, Facebook (The Poynter Institute/Al Tompkins)

Morgan asks Beth Hoppe, chief programming executive and GM, general audience programming, PBS, about refreshing existing programs on PBS and whether she has used audience data, including social media traffic to do so. She says so far, social media chatter does not correlate with ratings but with engagement.

Hoppe wants to emphasize that “facts are expensive.” News and public affairs are the most important thing that PBS does.  She says we need to label journalism as journalism as opinion as opinion. It is easy for users of content to miss the labels.  We need to emphasize that a POV (point-of-view) film is different from the PBS News Hour.

Morgan tells Stephen Segaller, vice president of programming, WNET, that she sees a preponderance of references to Downton Abbey on WNET’s social media space and wants to know why it dominates. Segaller replies “success is seductive.”  He says people are watching it in vast, unprecedented numbers and it is inevitable that WNET will go with the flow.  He says he hopes the Downton audience will stick around for other productions  He told the story of Downton including a promo for Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes promoting a J. D. Salinger program, and book sales of Catcher in the Rye spiking after the Salinger show.

Beth Hoppe, chief programming executive and GM. general audience programming, PBS

Hoppe says it’s not imperative that we make everything entertaining on PBS, “But it doesn’t mean we won’t try.”

Morgan asks if the public broadcasters set goals for engagement on social media. Hoppe talked about PBS on social media. It has 1.6 million Facebook likes and 1.8 million Twitter followers, so it is paying attention to that area and looking for ways to engage with audiences.

Slotwiner of Facebook says Facebook is looking for ways to make content on Facebook more easily discoverable, including letting users know about trending topics.

Amy Mitchell of Pew asks how much conversation on Facebook is driven by news. Slotwiner didn’t have that information.

Stephen Segaller, vice president of programming, WNET (The Poynter Institute/Al Tompkins)

Segaller mentions that Google can predict flu outbreaks before the CDC because of online searches about flu symptoms.  Is there a similar way to mine social media data to predict or estimate what kinds of gaps there are in the market for PBS to fill? Maybe we should merge Facebook and PBS, he quips.

Slotwiner says he’s done the kind of Google data crunching Segaller referenced and it’s harder than you think to come up with predictive analysis. There are too many variables at play.

At the request of Karen Dunlap, Morgan talks about Upworthy (whose representative had to leave the conference early) and its rapid growth in traffic.  Morgan notes Upworthy’s popularity and explains it is curating stories, perhaps just 20 a day, that are the most viral, “must share.”  From her viewpoint, the question is, if you get 100 million people a month to come to your site, what will you do with that?

Segaller says he hesitates to sound a skeptical note, but he wonders about popular sites that don’t produce original content.  He says there’s potential danger in fewer and fewer people producing original content that other people are repeating.

3 p.m. Bringing What We’ve Heard Together

Moderator Karen Dunlap, in her last official program before becoming president emeritus, asks people to share observations from the day:

Rick Edmonds, Poynter media business analyst: I note the continuing and unresolved question about how researchers define “news” today.  Are we defining it journalists do and if so, is that the way the audience defines it?  Are we asking

Harvey Nagler, vice president, CBS News Radio: No one here has spoken negatively about any other platform — that we have to do this all together and coordinate in a positive manner. What ideas can we bring to the fore. The negative: We had only 24 hours together for this conversation.

Marcy McGinnis, senior vice president of newsgathering at Al Jazeera America: I was encouraged by the emphasis on documentary and in-depth. I appreciated the focus on customizing content for the platform on which it is delivered.

Ceril Shagrin, executive vice president of audience measurement Innovation and analytics for Univision Communications Inc.: I learned the value of documentaries today – I heard loud and clear what could be accomplished. My takeaway: there continues to be a great value in news. Next conference, let’s look at political news.

Jack Walshlag, chief research officer for Turner Broadcasting System: Researchers don’t make news but we do tell stores.  I am struck by the challenge journalists dealing with what is new, interesting and important.

Keenan Pendergrass, director of station research for WFTV and WRDQ: Research can tell you what not to do. How do we define what works for our brand and the future of where we are going.

Amy Mitchell, director of journalism research for the Pew Research Center:  We need to understand how to use data well.  We didn’t address the tension between the individual journalist and the news organization as they each engage with audiences.  How do those two pieces come together to a better end for journalism?

Stacey Lynn Schulman, senior vice president and chief research officer at TVB: There’s euphoria about data.  I’m concerned about the ethical use issues around the use of data.

Raju Narisetti: I go to a lot of conferences and often know most of the people at them. This time, I knew only two people. It is the first time I’ve come to Poynter.  Instead of gloom and doom conversations, this has been and optimistic conversation. There are amazingly smart people doing things around these issues. I’ve also noted the number of women here leading the way in this area.

J.J. Gould: If you look back four or five years at digital media, it would have been blogs.  Now there is so much more native substantive digital journalism. I appreciated seeing the way it can play out on multimedia, but I see the potential for substantive news and analysis in the digital space.

Joe Thloloe (Press Council of South Africa): I leave here very hopeful. I believe that storytelling is alive and well. There is a possibility again that we in South Africa and Africa generally may be able to leapfrog some of the stages that US media have been through.

Beth Hoppe: I also leave here hopeful.  Disruption equals opportunity.  For us in public media, what needs work is how we pay for it.

Billy McDowell: I was most struck by the power of brands across all platforms.  We do have to protect the legacy business, which is supporting all this journalism.  I applaud the documentary producers.  I would like to see us do more of that.

Beth Rockwood: I think there is an enormous amount that is working, the experimentation, the varied points of view.  I think it is possible there will be a resurgence of news and information.  I feel very optimistic.  The business models will need work and we need to understand new ways to tell stories to engage viewers of all generations.

Stephen Segaller: The news business is changing dramatically and is still in pretty decent shape. The audience is using every conceivable device to consume content. One thing public TV has as a challenge is that for many hours a day, our audience is children.

Daniel Slotwiner: I have been struck by the parallels between your industry and others dealing with changing consumer patterns.  There should be more we can do together on programming and distribution from a research perspective.

Patrick Cooper: We haven’t talked about managing across varied user experiences.  I’m looking forward to more of that in the future.

Marie Kramer: New audiences are alive and well.  You have your second screen experience, so while you While Nielsen is making great strides in measuring cross platform audiences, we have work to do in helping you monetize in the future.

Tamara Gould: It has been powerful and thought provoking as a documentary producer to be here with you.  The possibilities for content partnerships are interesting. We need to talk about diversity in the newsroom and among the content producers. We need to help develop the talent and invest in building the people who can tell the stories.

Kathy Im: We are supporting many independent film makers and documentary producers and are looking for partnerships.  We encourage you to look at what we are doing.  If we can help with collaborations, we would be happy to do that.

Vivian Schiller: There’s a dramatic recognition that we need to change.  There is a will and an optimism about change, and I can see it here. I think there is still a lot of fear, specifically around data. Yes, there are so many pitfalls, but we don’t even know a fraction of what we need to know before we know what the pitfalls are.  We’re journalists, we have good moral and ethical compasses about what’s appropriate.  Keep in mind that compass, and keep experimenting further and further.

Richard Zackon: I am encouraged that I leave here questioning if I really know exactly what news is — that I have more to learn. I am impressed by the spirit of collaboration and collegiality across the broad, diverse spectrum of media here.

Karen Dunlap has the last word: I am is struck by the energy in journalism. Read more