How To Survive A Toxic Newsroom
How To Survive A
Written by Aletheia
🕒 October 9, 2018
“Stay clear. You’ve been warned.”
“Very poor communicator.”
“…station is going downhill.”
All of those are actual station reviews posted on this website, and they’re just a glimpse of the negative reviews I see. (Let me insert here that there are numerous positive, glowing reviews of news teams and leaders across the country who are doing things right. It’s not all bad, future journalists).
The feedback can be helpful as you navigate open positions, and search for a station that can help launch or develop your career. But, what if you’re already in the mess? How do you navigate the toxic muck day-in and day-out, and still take something positive from your bad newsroom experience?
Step #1: Buy cheap wine.
Nah, I’m just kidding…. Sort of.
If you’re trying to produce a great reel, and make a decent attempt at being happy when you show up for work, use these tactics in your battle against a toxic newsroom.
Hit it head on.
I’ll warn you, this approach isn’t for the mild mannered (but you’re a rockstar reporter, producer, or photographer, so I know you’re up for it). Start a conversation with your news director, or assistant news director, about the work environment.
If you want results, your approach is crucial. Use these communication methods:
Don’t just bring the problem. Have a solution. (Pitch the idea to start an employee recognition program, a quarterly station cookout or potluck, or continued training outside the station)
Avoid vagueness. Use specific examples. (AVOID: “I feel unappreciated.” SAY: “Consistent negative feedback, and only getting emails that address mistakes, leaves me frustrated and feeling unappreciated.”)
Leave no gray area. There are a few situations that require you to stand up for yourself. Do it respectfully. Do it directly. Leave no room for misinterpretation. (“I took your comment that the story ‘was too big for me’ as disrespectful, and a lack of confidence in my ability as a reporter. I may still be learning, but I’d appreciate if you could deliver your message with more tact and guidance rather than unhelpful criticism.”)
Like I said, this tactic isn’t for everyone, so if you’d rather steer clear of direct confrontation, or your situation is better handled in another way, try one of these methods:
Be the example.
Want a better work environment? Create it. Dish out high-fives like they’re the world’s greatest commodity. Help a teammate when you recognize they’re struggling with an assignment. Take an opportunity to cross train. Smile.
Honestly, so much of the news you’ll cover is bad enough. When there’s an opportunity to smile through the grit, take it.
Learn from seasoned team members.
Many of the station reviews from not-so-impressed employees come from legendary, market-leading stations. Working at a market leader can be a blessing and a curse.
Here’s what I mean:
The curse: It’s hard to break the old-school mentality that manifests in legendary stations. The “we’ve always done it this way” mindset is hard to deal with for young, aspiring newsroom talent.
The blessing: Market-leading stations typically have a wealth of talent from which you can learn. Ask one of the station’s anchors, or seasoned reporters, to be your mentor while you’re there. You’ll not only learn from their experience, but you’ll likely create a strong reference for future jobs.
Explore your city.
The only thing worse than being in a toxic environment for 8 hours (yeah, you’re right, make that 10 hours) a day, is going back to your apartment, sitting on the couch, and counting the hours until you have to return to work.
Get out and explore your city! I get it. That sounds very touristy-blogger of me to say, but what’s the alternative? Sitting in a beanbag chair, watching reruns of The Office, and drinking red wine out of a Solo cup? (That’s a guess and certainly not from personal experience…)
I worked in market 155…in West Virginia…for nearly three years, but if I returned to that city, I could take you to the best homemade ice cream shop you’ve ever experienced. All I’m saying is find something that makes your life a little better, even if it comes in a cone. 🍦😋
How do you handle your tough newsroom days? Leave a comment below, and share your toxic newsroom survival tips with other awesome talent.