David Arkin's blog

Are you recognizing your newsroom’s best and brightest?

Last week, I got the opportunity to present two of our newspapers with Newspapers of the Year trophies as part of our annual editorial awards program.

We launched this awards program eight years ago and today it recognizes newspapers and staffs in 15 categories including Newspaper of the Year and Editor of the Year. Newspapers are recognized in three different divisions based on their circulation. We have external judges for the contest.

Last week, I got the opportunity to present Newspaper of the Year trophies to Alice Coyle (left), managing editor of several GateHouse Media weeklies in New England and Kristi Funderburk, editor of the Marshfield Mariner.

As you can see above, the Newspapers of the Year winners get really nice trophies. It’s our Stanley Cup. I enjoyed being able to recognize the Enterprise and Marshfield Mariner, both located in New England, last week, as I presented them with their trophies. The Enterprise won in our 5,000-20,000 daily circulation division and the Mariner in our under 5,000 circulation and non daily division. Later this year I will recognize the Ledger in Lakeland, Fla. They won in our large daily division, newspapers over 20,000 circulation.

A few folks in attendance, last week, offered some words of encouragement and praise for the papers but the comment that most resonated with me was one from Sean Burke, who is the president for our weeklies and several dailies in New England. He said that it was so important to take the time to reflect, enjoy and appreciate this recognition, that we don’t take time to reflect and recognize our high-quality journalism enough. He was so right. There’s no doubt it’s hard to do that during the hustle and bustle of our very busy days. But it’s critical we do it.

Our industry is going through incredible challenges right now. There are massive changes in technology, changing platforms, new audience expectations and revenue pressures. While we are all working very diligently to solve those challenges, we must take time to recognize people for their good work. We have to take time to talk about what we’re doing that’s good. And we have to encourage our staffs to do more of that kind of work.

Our annual awards program aims to do just that and we shoot to have it evolve with our industry. For example, we now recognize a Tweeter of the Year. That wasn’t the case in our 2007 awards program.

Recognizing people isn’t hard. While the program I am referencing awards dozens and dozens of journalists with nice plaques and big trophies, there are things you can do at a local level that accomplish recognition.

Here are three ways you can recognize great work on a consistent basis:

1. Above and beyond: Recognize staff who have gone the extra mile either in their coverage/editing, assisting readers, helping colleagues or doing something for the paper outside of work that helped with brand or service.

2. Metrics rewards: If there is a specific initiative you are pushing, like more video, create a rewards program recognizing the staff member who created the most video or got the most video plays that month. You could do something similar in social media, recognizing the staff member who got the most reach or shares in a given month.

3. Let readers vote: If you have a Reader Advisory Board (and many GateHouse Media newspapers have launched them this year), ask readers each month to come to the meeting with their favorite story and reward the employee whose story received the most votes. You could mix it up each month, one month being a story and the next a photograph. You could share comments from the board on what they liked about the content.

If you can give gift cards or some sort of monetary rewards, that’s great, but it’s not completely necessary. Certificates or plastering pictures of this month’s winner on a board, all get the job done, too. People just want to be recognized. It feels good and it encourages others to shoot to perform at an even higher level.

It’s a part of newsroom culture that is easy to ignore in challenging and busy times, but it’s critical.

Note: At the Center for News & Design in Austin, Texas, we just started a CND Headliners Award, given to employees each month who contribute ideas and actions that make us more creative, more productive, more efficient or more effective in what we do.

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