Some advice to managers based on the Jayson Blair case:
Give young people a chance.
Since Jayson Blair’s betrayal of his colleagues and our fragile public trust, scores of young people have asked if their aspirations to work for large news organizations early in their careers are doomed.
Let’s hope not. Our business needs young voices now more than ever, for too often the seniors in the ranks keep our news and our views buried in the past with only faint connections to the minds and hearts of the next generation of leaders.
Reach out to people of color to improve things.
Hiring, retaining or promoting people of color out of “white guilt” is an insult to intelligent people of all colors. Hire people of color based on a clear recognition that the institution of journalism has fallen short of its potential for decades because it has excluded talented people of color from its ranks and quite often reported on them with less than admirable results.
Hire, retain and promote people of color out of a realization that, in most communities, the future of your organization’s relevance and growth depends on your ability to serve diverse communities. Read the census data. The United States is rapidly becoming a nation of minorities with no majority of one race.
Do your homework and listen to your troops.
It’s one thing to be confident in your abilities to lead. It’s another to be confident and arrogant. The latter combination has proven lethal to newsrooms in the past and the leaders with such styles. It is always good to remember that, in all but a few cases, the organizations you are assigned to manage have been successful cash cows for years before you were born and will be years after you depart the organization. Turning them on their heads, ignoring advice from folks who’ve been in the trenches at the organization and failing to do good homework makes for great headlines but miserable newsrooms and unnecessarily early exits, including your own.
Some advice to young journalists:
Be honest with yourself, your friends, your mentors, your colleagues, your public, if you aspire to work in the news business and succeed in it over time. If these simple tenets of life and conduct seem foreign to you, please decide now to be a fiction writer.
Reginald Stuart, a former national president of SPJ, was a staff reporter and national correspondent for The New York Times for 13 years. He worked with Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd at The Times and has known Jayson Blair since Blair’s days as a college journalist at the University of Maryland.