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Newsroom leaders must have two brains: logical and creative

By Martha Ortiz

Medellin, Colombia


It is said we have two brains and one mind — the first one is logical and mathematical, the second one is lateral and creative. I am afraid there are plenty of stereotypes, and journalism has mistakenly been trapped on one side while the chief editor of the future requires two brains.

What are the challenges?

The first challenge is that media companies need chief editors with knowledge and passion for print and digital (and whatever the future brings to the game). The problem is you usually find talent in the market in one environment but rarely in both. An explanation to this situation could be territoriality, stigma (either to the old or the new), and fear of learning.

The most skillful newsroom leaders will be able to navigate journalism ideals with business needs.
The most skillful newsroom leaders will be able to navigate journalism ideals with business needs.

The second challenge is that media businesses require chief editors with business awareness, a marketing perspective, and product imagination. This issue here is that this profile is even scarcer. This is mainly because journalists tend to distrust everything that involves money, so their chiefs are very careful not to endanger their credibility in guiding their teams.

7 skills of a chief editor

I don’t want to be misunderstood. There are things a chief editor must have, and they are non-negotiable. They include:

  • Values: They must have ethics — not only as people but as journalists, with values that are expressed with clarity and lived with coherence and loyalty.
  • Trustworthiness: They must be professional according to the role they hold in the company and the society they serve.
  • Centred: They must be a heart-centred professional with emotional intelligence about to face any challenge the news could bring in this amazing but sometimes unfair and crazy world.
  • Criteria: This person must cover reality based on facts, contrasting information, multiple sources, analytics, and perspective.
  • Knowledge: They must able to navigate the best practices of journalism, multi-media narratives, the complexity of being a journalist, and the newsroom challenges of producing 24/7 on various platforms.
  • Leadership: They must inspire and lead their team through today’s goals and tomorrow’s dreams.
  • Public figure: This is someone who understands the responsibility they have to society.

Journalism lives in history through impeccable investigation and beautifully writing. Who doesn’t enjoy the scenes of late-night colleagues writing on typewriters with a whiskey and cigars in the middle of a chaotic newsroom while discovering a story that will change history? I do.

But I also suggest we enjoy the environment that brings about innovation in product design and technology. We need to have two brains and one mind to play the media game of the present.

About Martha Ortiz

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