Spending time with younger journalists

My last spell as an editor was running a trade publication: New Zealand Reseller News.

There, I made it my business to spend time with younger journalists. Most days we had morning coffee in a café. We took 30 minutes away from the office, computers and phones in an informal editorial meeting.

Each day I would discuss the journalists’ story lists. We would talk about how to tackle stories, who to talk to and share inside knowledge to help each other write better material. I would assign jobs, and encourage the journalists to talk openly about what they knew and what they picked up in the course of their work – often this would generate fresh story ideas.

Our paper was never better than when we did this. We were better informed, motivated and worked as a team. It showed to other publications in our group and to the computer industry people we dealt with .

At the meeting I took time to go over editorial issues, media law and grammar or style points. It was a mini-training seminar.

In my experience informal on-the-job training is more powerful than 12 months or three years in a classroom. I learned that way as a junior reporter and hope the people I worked with learnt something valuable from me.

It wasn’t a one-way flow. I encouraged criticism or discussion. At times I learnt new ideas. Moreover, by teaching others I refined and improved my own skills. In some cases I had to give reasons to explain why we had this or that rule. It kept me on my toes.

If you were to ask me then which part of working in an editorial office I would miss the most, I would have named many things, but in hindsight, I missing teaching younger journalists more than anything else.