The teamwork approach led to another useful idea: the “buddy” system. There’s so much orientation a person needs right off the bat, so we assign a buddy, who was not a part of the hiring team for that person, to take them around and introduce them and show them the ropes. That takes that responsibility off the back of the news director and top managers. We have a check list of what buddies do. So instead of just the news director being invested in the new hire’s success, as is the case in most newsrooms, at KVUE you end up with a buddy and a hiring team on your side, making sure you succeed.
In keeping with this goal of sharing responsibility and increasing employees’ investment in our product, I wanted a station in which the maximum amount of information is shared. So I convinced the general manager to share audience research projects with the entire station: sales, engineering, news, everyone. We share everything with everybody except the specific research on our anchors, but we share that with the anchors themselves. That way everyone in the station knows what we’ve found and how to brainstorm around what we’ve learned.
The democratic approach led me to establish a team system for much of the major work of the newsroom. We have had teams for hiring each new person, teams for designing and building the new newsroom, teams for critiquing our own work, for building the news set, creating our new radar system, even for setting the budget. I meet with each task force weekly. It takes longer to do this work with teams than it does with the conventional boss-down method, but you get good buy-in from people you wouldn’t otherwise, you cover more bases, and there are fewer surprises.
Thanks to this system, the police radios at the assignment desk are placed where they’re least disruptive and the maps are hung where they’re readily available but not in the way. The photographers’ office now has a desk and a workbench. And the news set has computers the anchors can use between stories.