Magazine article American Journalism Review

Needed in Newsrooms: Time to Think

Magazine article American Journalism Review

Needed in Newsrooms: Time to Think

Article excerpt

There's a serious shortage in newsrooms, and it gets almost no attention. It affects reporters and editors alike and seems to be getting worse. The item in short supply: time to think.

Nobody knows the news business like news people. But journalists seem to be last in line when it comes to having time to discuss basic decisions that drive the news business, things like what does and doesn't get covered, what makes it to the top of the news report and why, which subjects get the most space or time and why.

When I was an editor, we joked that long-range planning was deciding what was going in Sunday's newspaper. It wasn't much of a joke. Of course, long-range planning shouldn't be confused with long-range thinking.

When was the last time you saw a reporter or an assistant city editor sitting at a desk thinking about the big issues that affect news content? If news people want to think conceptually about news issues, they're probably doing it on their own time.

"Jones, we don't pay you to think around here. Get to work!"

Not many supervisors would be that crass today, but the drive to get out the next story pushes away the opportunity for meaningful thinking and discussion about legitimate issues that affect the daily news report.

This shortage of time to think becomes more serious when you realize that a lot of non-journalists are thinking about and criticizing news decisions. Too often, those criticisms are dismissed as politically inspired or shallow views of people who don't understand the news business. …

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