Creating More Effective Newsroom Communication

Journalists are tasked with communicating sometimes complex information to their audiences in a way that helps the audience understand issues and become involved, if they deem it appropriate.

The communication-based role of journalism is perhaps why it’s so interesting that newsrooms tend to lack strong internal communications. It seems many journalists complain about a lack of communication or poor communication within their organizations. Why is it that master communicators cannot communicate with one another?

If communication is an issue in your newsroom, here are some tips for creating more effective newsroom communication.

1. Who are you speaking to?

Before you engage in a conversation, think about what that person wants and needs to get from the communication. Make sure what you communicate meets those expectations, which likely are based on how their newsroom role interacts with yours.

2. What’s your goal?

Conversations aren’t just one way. What’s the one thing you want to to help the other person know or understand? Make sure you communicate your message in a way that accomplishes that goal. Also, remember to focus communication on what you think should happen, not what you don’t want to happen.

3. Listen

Don’t communicate just to talk. Really listen to the other person and consider how to respond before talking. Don’t finish their sentences, just let them talk. Listening also means turning away from your computer, putting down devices and maybe even closing the door so you can focus on the person talking. Make eye contact with the person who is talking. Also be willing to take notes to help remind yourself what was agreed upon.

4. Be specific

Be specific when communicating what you want or need. You set others up for failure and yourself for disappointment when you’re vague or leave things to chance.

5. Avoid negativity

It’s easy to just complain and whine, but that’s not good communication, especially if you’re the leader. Keep your communication as positive as possible, given the situation. Never complain about other coworkers or just gripe.

6. Recap the conversation

At the end of your conversation, recap what you think you’ve heard and what they need from you. If you’ve asked them to do something, send a follow-up email about what was agreed upon.

These steps may seem formal, but they don’t play out that way once you’re used to communicating in this manner. When you use the steps to communicate, they become your natural process and, hopefully, will be adopted by those around you, creating more effective overall communication in your newsroom.


profKRGDr. Kenna Griffin is an assistant professor of mass communications and director of student publications at Oklahoma City University. She is the author of the Prof KRG blog, which serves as a practical resource for student journalists. She is a journalist, reader, shoe lover, wife, mother of two, and the spoiler of a couple of adorable dogs.