Monday, 17 August 2009

On a scale of one to arsehole - what kind of boss am I?

It's a fair question.
For some months now I have told you what I expect of a good reporter but not really what standards I set for myself or how my team are treated.
I can't accurately say whether I am a bad boss or a good boss, as, in the main, it is subjective. Depending on the reporter's own expectations and ambitions and direction they wish to take, it will ultimately alter their view of the way I work.
I am a hard news journalist, and I imagine I always will be. Nothing gets me more excited than a grisly murder or a disaster. Sick, yes. Realistic, definitely.
I am undoubtedly, at times, a mean bastard, unfair and rude.
But I would not let my reporter's do anything I have not already done or would be willing to do again.
When we are short staffed (which is often) I muck in. I come in early to do downpages. I make calls to contacts for stories. I deal with the mundane drivel (like uploading to the web) to free my reporters up to get me decent stories. I spend an hour a night reading through our web comments to get leads. I scour the local blogs and councillor's web sites. I still go to some council meetings and meet with as many players as I can to build good relations.
I do door knocks at weekends to get a head start when reporters are busy.
I will sit down with my team and go through their copy. I will offer them advice on getting pics, writing features and building relationships with councillors.
If they are having a phone call they can't deal with from an angry punter, I will get them to kick it up to me.
I will even help them with their CV if they want to move on or give them contacts to flog their stories to the nationals. God forbid, if they ever want to catch a train down south and work on the London papers, I will tell them what, and who, they need to know.
I let my reporters have time off for doctors, dentists, driving tests and other things beginning with d without making them fill out a holiday form.
I buy biscuits and cakes on stressful days and I let reporters go early on quiet days. I back my team up to the hilt when it comes to readers' complaints, legals and PCCs. I keep them off the radar of my bosses.
As long as the stories are coming in, I don't mind if the reporter comes in late or negotiates a morning off for a night job.
I make sure reporters take their lieu time and holidays. I realise their pay is shite and let them blag as many freebies as we can using the paper's name - including press trips abroad.
I buy the first round in the pub and, fuck me, I even make the tea (sometimes).
But to get you also have to give and I am a hard taskmaster. Chair spinners, clock watchers and bullshitters get short shrift.
My only goal is to bring out the best paper we possibly can. My motto is - get it first, get it right and get it all.
I truly care about what I do and my expectations of what we can do are higher than many of the bosses in local papers.
I give praise when it is due, but equally I give bollockings when a reporter drops a clanger.
I realise no-one is superhuman but to bring out the very best in reporters, I must push them.
If every time you fucked up you got a pat on the head and a 'never mind' would that make you worried about doing it again?
I have lost my temper and I have been an arsehole, I accept that.
If that makes me a bad boss, a dinosaur or a relic, then so be it.
But understand that sometimes, when stories are falling to pieces, legals are dropping like rain or deadlines are looming, I am equally as terrified of doing this job as you are.
It's just I'm not allowed to show it.


  1. I'd love a boss like you. I'm freelance now but if your paper has an M postcode and you ever want an extra (paid) pair of hands on a three-deck headline, I'm all ears..

  2. nice you are.

    Based on previous posts that led to this one can I ask.

    1. Do you provide your staff with mobile phones so that you at least have some right to expect them to answer you when you call?

    2. Are you employing sufficient staff to cover the workload or is your company expecting too few journos to do too much work so they can keep on raking in over-blown profit margins?

    The main reason wages and conditions are shite is because for too long newspaper owners have been able to exploit the keenness of most young journalists, many of whom would pay them for the privilege of working in news.

    Now that the shit is hitting the fan in terms of both readership and advertising the first place they look for savings is with those same poor bloody journos - and here are you backing them all the way.

    If you really want to be a good boss go in and tell your bosses to get their fingers out and put some proper money into editorial so you don't have to expect your journalists to work themselves into an early grave.

    Of course journalists have to realise it's not a 9-5 job. What they have a right to expect is that they will work to contracted hours. If you can't cover the patch without expecting them to routinely exceed those hours then you need more staff. It's not their fault, it's yours.

    Employ enough journalists to cover the hours needed without expecting them to routinely exceed their contracted hours.

    If the company is not prepared to do that then it will have to settle for second-rate journalism and decline unto the newspaper graveyard.

  3. >> Employ enough journalists

    As if that would some trivial thing to do. Did you own a company at some time, Shuttleboy?

  4. Multimedia Content Provider (used to be called senior reporter)18 August 2009 at 14:24

    Mr Blunt,
    We had a boss a bit like you until our Ivory Tower overlords put us all in consultation, annihilated an award-winning team and gave those who survived redundancy some truly ridiculous job titles.
    Our new contracts go on for page after page with a dry list of standards of performance and targets. And that's how we are 'measured'.
    Most of the editorial management who stayed were the boardroom lackey types who don't rock boats.
    Looking at your earlier posts about answering mobile phones and commitment to the job, I'd like to say the following.
    Last year I would have sweat blood for the editor, news editor, paper and readers. And the bloody website.
    Now I work in a world where quality, endeavour, terrier-like desperation to get The Story count for nothing - swing round in your chair for most of the day as long as you send the required amount of tat to HQ.
    So I follow-up those tips and leads that ring my bell and basically comply with my contractural obligations until I find a real job in journalism.
    And I now turn my phone off to Them while at lunch and at weekends (very unlikely they'd call anyway)and knock off at the end of official office hours. After all, that's what my bosses do.
    If this happens on your paper be prepared not to be the editor and don't be surprised when your most gung-ho reporters leave or turn into shadows of their former selves.

  5. Yes, you are a bit of a dinosaur, and an increasingly rare one that should be treasured.
    As a dinosaur fan I would say you could well be one of the Ankylosaurs,heavily armored dinosaurs that were among the last standing at the time of their extinction.

  6. I shall print this out and give it to my one remaining staff reporter. We used to have five.

  7. Michael - and how do you hope the poor solitary soul will respond to Blunt's self-assessment appraisal?

  8. "I make sure reporters take their lieu time and holidays. I realise their pay is shite and let them blag as many freebies as we can using the paper's name"

    The bosses at my paper, sadly, don't seem to understand reporters NEED to work out of hours on a regular basis - not just for murders and accidents, but for council meetings - so I feel I have to justify everything I do. I had to literally beg to be allowed to cover a by-election - how fucked up is that?

    Meanwhile, we get given stupid, irrelevant targets, so people who regurgitate press releases and write soft bollocks get the pat on the back.

    And, God knows, you have to justify every train ticket, every bus ticket, you get. It is a fucking joke.

  9. Yes, anonymous above, it is a fucking joke when you have to get on your knees for permission to cover a by-election.
    Let me guess the problem was over how much lieu time / travel costs / pathetic meal allowance might be generated by actually attending.
    I say this because I am working for a tosser who decided during the summer break that we don't need to go to most football matches this season - we can just cobble something together from fans' forums and a phone call to a club official.
    I'm not just talking about the away games, god forbid we clock up some mileage or buy a burger at half time, but home ones as well.