Talent is the backbone of a successful news media company, presenters told delegates at the INMA World Congress of News Media in New York on Friday.

Lars Anderson, programme manager of journalism at De Persgroep, said the one thing publishers can control in an era of content turmoil is the quality of journalism. Behind that journalism lies great people.

“As long as you have the best quality, you stay on top,” Anderson said. “That’s what we believe in firmly.”

Lars Anderson, programme manager of journalism at De Persgroep, describes the company's Campus initiative.
Lars Anderson, programme manager of journalism at De Persgroep, describes the company's Campus initiative.

De Persgroep created its Campus initiative, an in-house university, for its journalists in 2012. The first 10 programmes were very practical, then the team reached out to journalists to find out what information they wanted more of. Creativity and leadership were highly requested. Campus grew its programme offering to 90 in 2016.

“We started growing because it seemed to be journalists really wanted to be a part of these programmes,” Anderson said.

This year, the team has reduced the number of offerings to focus more solely on journalism. A task force helps identify topics aimed at specific news titles and individuals. Lately, there have been more offerings that focus on innovation.

“This is all to inspire them and help them with their work,” Anderson said. He then shared two lessons from Campus’ work so far.

  • Journalists are more absorbed by deadlines than previously assumed: “There’s no time for anything else, and there’s a huge downside if they don’t have time to reflect on their jobs and what they do.” 
  • Journalists are eager to participate in the programmes: Employees are learning and connection, and synergy has improved.

Campus has paid off for De Persgroep, helping the company attract the attention of talent that may have been more interested in working with start-ups like Blendle.

“I think that has been the biggest reward: To get talent and to keep talent.”

Investing in people is a passion of Nicole Carroll, editor-in-chief of USA Today. She works to recruit a diverse staff so newsrooms reflect the people they serve.

“We can not do our jobs, we can not cover America, if we do not reflect America,” she said.

Nicole Carroll, editor-in-chief of USA Today, shares that the company is focused on diversity so its editorial staff looks like the United States.
Nicole Carroll, editor-in-chief of USA Today, shares that the company is focused on diversity so its editorial staff looks like the United States.

USA Today creates initiatives to help support people once they join the organisation. Groups like African American Forward, Interfaith Forward, and Pride Forward are a great recruitment tool, Carroll said.

“So when I talk to people about coming to USA Today Network, it’s not just talk,” she said. “Here’s our culture. Here’s our groups. And here are some of the people that are going to support you once you’re here.”

Saying “thank you” often is key to building a better relationship with staff, especially when companies thank them for their feedback and for participating in surveys. Carroll added that, moving forward, one of the most important things USA Today can do is share its story. She played a video of employees sharing their professional experiences at the company. 

“One of the things we need to do more as we go through the process of recruiting is to tell our story,” she said.

Bloomberg Media also recognises the importance of recruiting and cultivating great talent. M. Scott Havens, global head of digital and media distribution at the company, said innovation is great but worthless without the right people to power it.

“Talent really is the lifeblood of an institution,” he said.

M. Scott Havens, global head of digital and media distribution at Bloomberg Media, looks for digital savvy hires.
M. Scott Havens, global head of digital and media distribution at Bloomberg Media, looks for digital savvy hires.

Havens tries to recruit new talent from specific places. He looks for recruits from great institutions that helped them build the right skills, entrepreneurial companies, and digital-first brands.

“For me, digital first is super important,” he said. “I love hiring people with traditional media background, but if they haven’t been doing digital first for some time by now, they probably won’t be able to keep up with the pace.”

Recruiting great talent is only the first half the equation. Once they are in an organisation, Havens said the company has to retain them. The average tenure of an employee at Bloomberg is two to three years. Havens shared some recruitment efforts the company uses to reduce churn:

  • Relentless training.
  • Transparent culture.
  • Achievable career paths.
  • Smart use of data.
  • Incorporating fun into the culture.

“Being proactive versus reactive makes a huge difference,” he said.