Editors-in-chief can’t do it all themselves. Bill Elson, a former editor for The Washington Post, told a room full of college journalists about the beauty of using the whole staff to get the job done. Though the editor must know how to be a reporter, writer, videographer and designer (and must be able to give legitimate instructions and advice), Elson said a single editor-in-chief couldn’t take it upon herself to put the finishing touches on every part of the newspaper.
One of the great things about spreading out the responsibility and trusting others in the newsroom to get the job done is that other students can be empowered. Though, as an editor, you must stay reasonable and not take foolish risks when assigning last minute tasks, you may never know what someone else is capable of if you never give the person a chance to show you.
That advice resonated with me during the session. Though I’m not an editor-in-chief, it is an important lesson in leadership that is especially applicable to having any position of authority and responsibility for others at a newspaper. Every now and then, give other students an opportunity to come into the newsroom and try their hand at new skills. Let them be versatile and flexible, too (within reason). Elson said it saves the editor from having to do everything herself (and from completely losing her mind), while empowering staff members lower on the totem poll and allowing them to discover new things they enjoy about producing a newspaper. After all, he said everyone on staff is a journalist–before they are freshmen, sophomores, juniors or seniors.