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Newsroom management tip: Block out time for your stars

Great ideas live forever! We found this post from the GateHouse Newsroom vaults that still rings true today for journalists who are looking for a few more productive hours in the day.

As a reporter battling constant deadlines and a hyperactive phone, my greatest challenge was carving out time for the enterprising stories I cared most about.

You know, the stories my readers probably cared most about, too.

So I couldn’t help but think of myself years ago when reading this quick management tip from the Harvard Business Review.

It’s about setting aside time for your team to get real work done. The post’s inspiration is from Julie Moscow.

“Encourage people to set aside an hour or more each morning for quiet, proactive work. There should be no interruptions during this time, unless it’s an emergency – this means holding off on meetings and limiting email.”

One question we get asked frequently by GateHouse editors is, how do we fit in time for local enterprise and in-depth news — especially in a small-staffed newsroom?

I think the only way to do it is by setting aside little slices of time each week, where you let the phone ring and maybe even skip a local event and ask participants to submit their own photos.

Ideally, we’d cover everything, everywhere and still have hours to devote to special projects. But that’s not the reality in our industry today.

Setting aside an hour every morning, like the post suggests? Well, maybe that’s not realistic. But an hour on Wednesday, two hours on Thursday — fitting them in where possible. Over the course of a month, you’ve carved out about a dozen hours dedicated to a single project.

If you’re doing zero now, that’s a good start.

The way I look at it is, if a reporter calls in sick on a Tuesday, somehow, we survive. Someone else grabs police reports, an editor takes a couple calls — the website still gets updated and that paper still comes out the next day.

So, we can adjust. We do it, every day.

As a manager, setting the expectation of a few uninterrupted hours a week can make the difference between a reporter who does nothing but run from one assignment to the next, to a reporter fulfilled by his or her own quality work.

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