Two Things You Should Never Do When Staffers Miss Deadlines

It would be easier for everyone if staffers just met their deadlines.

We all hate it when our writers don’t meet deadlines. It causes problems for the rest of the production process and means the readers don’t get the content as refined or as soon as expected. In other words, missed deadlines break down the information delivery system in our newsrooms.

Hopefully the majority of your staff meets their deadlines, especially if you communicate the story expectations, provide them with some initial sources, make sure they understand the deadline schedule, and check back in on them during the reporting process.

But there are always a few who just don’t get the work done.

Michael Giusti, an instructor and student media adviser at Loyola University in New Orleans, has great advice for what to do when students don’t meet deadlines. What most struck me about Michael’s advice is the two things he says editors should never do when staffers are late.

1. Never text or email

Don’t text or email staffers who have missed deadline. It’s too easy to ignore these forms of communication, especially when you haven’t done your job and want to avoid the person who is about to question you about your failure. Michael advises students to call the staffer the minute the deadline is missed. He says this must be done consistently, as soon as any story is even a minute late. If the staffer doesn’t answer the phone, don’t leave a voicemail. Instead, call back in five minutes. Continue this process until you get him or her on the phone.

2. Never ask “Why isn’t your story in?”

Once you get the staffer on the phone, Michael advises never to ask why the story isn’t in. This question just opens the door to excuses. Instead, Michael advises editors to say “Your story is due. I need it. When can I expect it?” This doesn’t let the staffer avoid writing the story or lie to you about what happened. Instead, it sends a clear message to the staffer that you still expect the story from him or her, and you expect it immediately.

Approaching missed deadlines in this way results in staffers doing their jobs. Michael said most students only have to get that deadline call a few times before they start turning their stories in on time to avoid an awkward conversation.

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.