Then there’s the fact that journalists can be, well, difficult: “Managing journalists is particularly challenging, because if they’re any good, they question authority and challenge spin,” Geisler says. “We want to hire those who will question authority—except ours.”
The best managers of journalists help them work autonomously in a way that serves the needs of the larger organization. “The problem is, we have former journalists who become journalism managers who are still trying to manage the journalism instead of the people,” Perry says. “They’re micromanagers.”
That comes back to the issue of training. Journalists, for all the right reasons, tend to look askance at the sloganeering, jargon, and corporate-speak that tends to accompany management-training sessions. But that doesn’t mean leadership is somehow unteachable. As Douglas McCollam noted here two weeks ago, Sulzberger knew from the beginning that Abramson’s hard-edged management style was not to his liking. Abramson had spoken with a management coach not long before she was fired, but that appears to have been too late.
On the other hand, in 1999, The New Yorker reported that Howell Raines was sent to several weeks of executive training at Dartmouth by Sulzberger as part of his grooming for the top job.
Raines would ascend to the executive editor’s chair in 2001, lasting less than two years before resigning amid the
Jason Jayson Blair scandal… and complaints about his imperious management style.