The New Head Honcho: Journalistic Leaders Must Know How To Run A Business

Does an editor in chief exist who has not been called on to sit in an endless budget meeting or engage in some other way with the business side? 

That’s the least of it. Now more than ever, journalism needs leaders who know how to run a business, judging by an essay in Nieman Reports. 

“If we want this new era to move us closer to a healthier, more sustainable future, it’s time to rethink how we define the qualities of those who will lead us,” Laura Krantz McNeill writes.

Presumably, that includes publishers, too.  

What will this new model entail? 

“We need people with a service mindset, who understand how to run a business, but a business with a mission that’s more important than ever,” Krantz McNeill adds. “We need leaders who embrace new revenue models, run toward chaos, and are excited to build new structures from the ground up.”  



Moreover, “We need leaders who are generous, who nurture the careers of their employees, and who are serious about creating diverse and inclusive workplaces. And we need leaders promoted for their skills and their thoughtfulness, not their loud voice, charisma, or pedigree."

Here are five types of leaders – and their skill sets – needed in publishing: 

  • Leaders who think like product managers. That means they can define the publication’s value by the audience it serves.  
  • Leaders who can strategize and who are in conversation with the community. 
  • Leaders who are excited about being entrepreneurs and who see opportunity in chaos. 
  • Leaders who can evangelize their mission and whose devotion to our industry's cause can bring others along.  
  • Leaders who consider themselves stewards. 

All these are very positive skills. But what about other strategic business savviness – like the ability to reduce headcount or kill entire products?

“There is so much fervor inside our organizations,” Krantz McNeill concludes. “The experts I spoke with are exhausted, make no mistake, but they also see a future for our industry that’s better than its past.” 

She adds, “If those who hold power today understand the value of this new skillset, if they work to develop it themselves, and if they help other changemakers climb the ladders that lead to the very top of our organizations, we might get to that better future.”

Oh for the days when all you had to do was cut a little travel out of the budget. 



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