GateHouse newsroom leadership close-up: Eric Dundon, Hannibal Courier-Post
The annual Best of GateHouse contest identifies GateHouse Media’s top talent from newsrooms of all sizes.
Eric Dundon, the editor of the Hannibal (Missouri) Courier-Post and Editor of the Year winner among newsrooms of eight editorial staff or fewer, impressed judges by demonstrating sophisticated reader engagement using social media, events and public service journalism and focusing on analytics to increase Hannibal’s reach and the impact of its stories.
GateHouse Newsroom touched base with Dundon to try and get to the bottom of what makes him such a successful newsroom leader.
GateHouse Newsroom: Can you describe a risk you took that brought about success in your newsroom?
Eric Dundon: Particularly for small staffs, the lion’s share of digital planning (I’m not talking about just uploading stories to the web) comes from one or two people. In our newsroom, everyone is involved in digital planning. That change came in the summer of 2016. At the Courier-Post, everyone is responsible for maintaining a Google-based digital budget seven days a week. With a little organization, involving everyone doesn’t eat up a lot of time during the day. Instead, we can now correlate consistent increases in our digital traffic with the work everyone collaborates on each day. And by explaining the importance of digital planning with everyone on the outset, each staff member was fully on board from the beginning. So instead of letting each person continue with the same routine, the newsroom has evolved and we’re seeing the benefits of that.
GHN: What is the best piece of leadership advice you can pass along?
EC: Let your employees — in my case reporters and photographers — discover their own success. I’ve found that over-leading and micro-managing hinder our newsroom. The best work our newsroom produces originates and is developed from reporters, with guidance from me. Allowing reporters to pursue their own ideas gives them a sense of agency and, I’ve found, ignites broader curiosity and passion for the work.
GHN: What qualities do you think are most important in a newsroom leader?
ED: For any leader in general, a sense of empathy and compassion for reporters is critical. First and foremost, reporters are people with families, additional commitments and, at times, struggles. We have a great sense of teamwork at the Courier-Post, I believe, in part because we all care for one another as people first. That understanding environment has to come from the top down. Because we know we have each others’ backs, we work well together and can collaborate on some important journalism.
Find him on Twitter at @HCP_Editor.