Editors emphasise importance of communication, timing

By Sarah Schmidt


Brooklyn, New York, United States


What can some of the most successful editors teach colleagues?

Four newsroom leaders from around the world, across sectors and business models, shared candid lessons learned at the Newsroom Workshop as part of the INMA World Congress of News Media in New York.

Rafat Ali, founder and CEO of Skift

Ali was ambitious when he founded the travel industry news site Skift from scratch in 2012, aiming to be the Bloomberg News of the travel industry.

That ambition paid off.

Skift now has an outsize influence and managed to cover the pandemic — the biggest story ever to hit the travel industry —while still staying in business. But he regrets being too ambitious about expanding into sectors early on, with forays into restaurant coverage and wellness.

“It just didn’t work,” he said. Sticking with what you know is sometimes the best tack.

Rachel Smolkin, senior vice president of Global News, CNN Digital

In the news business, sometimes you can get so focused on the external story that you forget to think about the internal story you’re presenting to your own team. Smolkin remembers killing a popular political ticker without sharing her plan. She stands by that decision but regrets not letting her team in on the decision from the beginning.

“My colleagues on the traffic team and in analytics were alarmed. I didn’t need to do that to them. I learned that you need to bring people along,” she said, adding this is especially true at an organisation as big as CNN.

Richard Baum, global general manager, Reuters, United States

While running the online newsroom at Reuters, Baum regrets not working with his predecessors earlier.

“I felt awkward about talking to those people who I was taking over from, not realising the person I was talking over from really wanted to talk to me,” he said.

Since then, he often sees other people making the same mistake, and now he sees people not coming to him to take advantage of his experience.

Something to remember, he said: “Most people want to help.”

Mapula Nkosi, managing editor, City Press, Roodepoort, South Africa

Unlike so many publications worldwide, City Press is committed to retaining its print business even as it transitions to a hybrid digital/print model. But Nkosi regrets holding out for too long to shift to digital-first.

“By the time we made the shift, there was a huge disconnect between older and younger talent, Nkosi said. I think if we’d made the leap sooner, we’d be further along.”

INMA World Congress of News Media continues through May 26.

About Sarah Schmidt

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