Cap J: Swimming with current |

Cap J: Swimming with current

Don Rogers

Ever gotten caught in a rip tide or swift current? It’s hell if you are trying to swim against it. But that’s the very last thing you should try to do. You go with the tide, relaxing even and then ooching sideways until clear of it.

Been there, done that. I’m comfortable with the ocean that way, but terrified at the prospect of my landlubber wife or kids in similar straits.

You simply apply the same thinking to swimming as you do as a matter of course to sailing. In sailing you cannot go directly upwind. You can only go to the side and then tack back and forth to get to your upwind destination.

“Running” a newsroom, any newsroom, is much the same. My metaphor for a dinky daily’s newsoom ” like the Vail Daily’s ” is a very tippy sailing dinghy. They also happen to be by far the most fun to sail, for that precise reason.

My control is really bansai ” ideally a steady influence. I need creative people with tons of initiative to follow their best judgment. Between the Daily, the Vail Trail and the Eagle Valley Enterprise, that’s over 30 people.

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The first lesson of the newsroom is that you cannot truly control anyone. These are cats, not dogs. They don’t answer to your whistle, respond to “Good boy!” Oh no.

These are independent, iconoclastic, often artistic types. Or so they imagine themselves. Try to make them dogs and you kill the spark that makes a news department take off. I see organizations ” including, frankly, mine ” try. But it’s the wrong way to go. And like the rip tide, the effort only dies.

Oh, in short bursts I can be demanding, a regular Ed Asner, Perry White. A reall asshole. Better pick those spots carefully though. You only have a handful of opportunities when that would actually work.

The real art is influence. And that comes with listening, feeling, taking in, asking questions, offering suggestions.

The spark, the power of that tide, is what we’re really after. It’s what you as the reader seek, whether you know this precisely. It shows in creativity, innovation, that extra 2 percent effort a reporter or page designer puts into their work.

So that’s my job as the supervisor of the news effort. Swimming with the tide, sneaking a stroke sideways as I aim to harness the best this crew has. And I’ll tell you, they have quite a bit to offer.

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