Session Transcripts

A live transcription team captured the SRCCON sessions that were most conducive to a written record—about half the sessions, in all.

Every day I’m juggling: Managing managers, peer expectation, and your own project ideas

Session facilitator(s): Gina Boysun, Justin Myers

Day & Time: Friday, 12-1pm

Room: Innovation Studio

Gina. We’ll wait just a couple of minutes to see if there’s any stragglers, but then we’ll get going right away. My name is Jonah Boysun I’m an online editor i Spokane, I’m a manager of a team of a couple of news dev and a couple of producers, and I have a boss right now who knows nothing about tech and I have some peers who know a lot about tech and I have some reporterrers who know not very much so kind of how this bubbled up for me is ideas for how we can pitch ideas, help people to learn, how to help our bosses be advocates for us up the chain and it’s nice in this room that most of us are that already. We’re all tech and we know what we’re doing, so it’s kind of nice to be among my people, but really back at home, we’re special unicorns in a department full of people who do journalism. Maybe know a little bit of tech. There’s a whole spectrum of ability. And so what we’re going to talk about today is some strategies and I am we’re going to break up into small groups, too, but some strategies for how you can most effectively tell stories, set expectations for projects, how to fail successfully when you have made a mistake and learn from that, and so I’ll hand it off to Justin and he’ll talk a little bit and we’ll go from there.

Justin: Hey, everybody, so I’m Justin Myers, I work for the Associated Press as the news automation editor, so on one hand I have editor on my title, on the other hand, all my direct reports are robots, so coming ou of this from a little different perspective up the reporting chain than Gina is.

So at least in my role and knowing a good number of people in the room, I think in some of your roles, too, there can be a good amount of pressure coming from different parts of our organization, sometimes different parts of the newsroom, sometimes business, product, sides of things, having, you know, their own concerns and their own perspectives, and so I’m interested in this mostly in the sense of figuing out how to better coexist with the other people that I work with. And so, would love to see what sort of comes out of the conversation in terms of how we all treat each other better, especially when we go back home.Gina: Just to get kind of a survey of who we have in the room, how many news apps developers do we have here? All right, how many people, reporters, writers, editors?

How about managers in here?

OK. Cool. Designers?

OK. Cool. So it looks like we have a nice mixture. I’m going to give like the sort of things that I struggle with and we’re going to kind of invite people to break into small groups and talk about some of your own experiences and then together kind of problem-solve or the goal is to come out of this with sort of a toolkit or an arsenal of here’s the best way that we can approach this, pitching a project, or solving a problem, and then kind of report that back, either put in our etherpad or provide it to Justin or I and we can put it in there. So a specific example that I’m dealing with right now, and this is off the record immediately. (Off the record).

PARTICIPANT: Let’s see, and just sort of as a seed example from my side of things, the AP is a really big place, (this is Justin. I work on an entirely remote team. Theres’ 10 or 11 of us in, I think, six different cities, just on the data team. That’s not counting other few thousand that work for the broader organization all throughout the world and so there’s this sense, like it’s really easy, especially in sort of a newsroom tech role, to sort of feel off in your own corner, and like even the people you’re working with directly don’t necessarily see what you’re doing at any given time and what, you know, how to help. One of the other approaches that is interesting to me is just visibility, right? What do you do? How do you do it? How can I help you? And so if anybody wants to take that approach to things. That’s also welcome.

How big do we want to try to make groups here or do we just keep everybody at their tables and see how this goes?

Gina: Yeah, there’s enough at tables there and I don’t want to make people get up and move around or so if you guys talk among your tables about some specific pain points that you might have or projects that you’re working and want to pitch and kind of what you run into as good strategies, things you’ve tried that have not worked, and then also just ask one another and so basically we’ll give you some time to talk and then we’ll kind of be roaming around the room, kind of seeing what sorts of things that you’re talking about. And they we’re hoping that last 15 minutes or so, you guys can each provide a couple, three straties or tips for how to address specific situations or broader situations that will help the rest of this group.

PARTICIPANT: Justi: Any questions before we get started? All right. Have at it.

[group activity]

Justin: OK, everybody, we’re going to give you about another minute or so, so if you’ve got something you want to share with the broader group, that would be great. There are some post-it notes there, so another minute or so …

Justin: All right, if I can get everybody back for a second. So, it sounds like there was a lot of good conversation going on. Gina and I were sort of going around from table to table. Does anybody sort of want to kick things off and share something that their group came up with the rest of the room?

PARTICIPANT: OK, so I’ll pick three of—what we were talking about over here? We were talking about, at this group, like when people come in and try to—well, what we were mostly talking about how not to be a service desk. Like, how do you balance the difference between ting requests versus what you think about being proactive with is right. In a country that doesn’t get data journalism yet. And the three things that we—or four things that we came up with, spend 80% of the time on the 20% that matters and spend 20% of the time on the thing management wants and the side note that that I will not endorse, but that was said here, is to lie about how long it takes to do the 20%, so they don’t know the 80% is actually being spent on the other things.


Data trumps the hippo in the room, hippo being the highest paid person’s opinion.

We can’t just expect it to work or expect that people understand how we work. We have to collaborate. And then always get to go the why. And this is mostly to the question of like people coming to you and just saying, like, make it blue or like make it bigger or like build this thing for me. Talking about what the value added is who is the user, why would your user care, putting the user first and really focusing on why what you’re doing is important and that usually resolves to an understanding of either your thing isn’t important or there’s another issue that you should be solving and there’s a better way to solve it.PARTICIPANT: Thanks. Anybody else?

PARTICIPANT: So we went through a couple, but one of the one that really stood out to me is when you have, like, a couple sort of micromanaging editors going over like what shade of blue, you send them off into their own room, and have one of them report back to say what the decision is. Because like this is purely tactical, and it happens to all of us, and it was absolutely brilliant. I—haha—um, how can I read my handwriting? Another one is like for all—I’m paraphrasing this, sorry. We’re all sort of—we’re experts in our particular domains, be it like data visualization, or programming, and editors are experts in their domains, and sometimes they don’t really understand that our expertise is just as involved in our domains as theirs, so you have to take the time to teach and train them and that takes a while, but like, you have to send a blog post articles, and eventually they’ll start to understand that there’s depth to the things we do.

Third one is putting together like a women impact reports on the stuff that we just finished, to feed back to the editors, and producers, like immediately after a thing happens, so it’s not 6 months later that they go oh, this work or this did it. It’s like next week, or two weeks later, and that way they can understand immediately how their decisions affect how good the product is. And I don’t think I can read the last one.


Justin: Thanks. Anybody from one of the other tables?

PARTICIPANT: So yeah, we covered a lot of this stuff, too, so I’ll just pick some of them. One thing that I really liked when we talked about getting people outside of our team to use our communication tools was like getting them on Slack by having sort of channels that offer them vicarious, some of them are statistics on how stories are doing, so reporters will come on because they want to see their names and they want to see positive things and pieces like that. I’ll grab some to see what she wrote down. Yeah, talked about in the technical world how you’ll ask people to file tickets as user stories, where you say something like, you know, as an editor I want this, so that if blank and how that can be applied for in the newsroom because when you force people to think through what the end product of the story is, maybe it will help them that it doesn’t need to be a big graph OK why are maybe you guys can work out the situation that can be the right one. Helps them to solve a core problem or tell a story they’re trying to tell.

Oh, yeah, so to kind of show progress for maybe nontechnical managers, maybe just teach them how to look at some of the existing tools, so one example is a new manager never managing a technical team, just show them how to look at a commit history so maybe if they don’t understand exactly how to see the code, you can see that you’re pushing commits regularly, you’re working on this problem, not just messing around.

Thanks. Anybody from this table over herePARTICIPANT: We didn’t have any solutions.


So we were struggling with it.

PARTICIPANT: Existential issues.

PARTICIPANT: Yeah. I wrote some great why is here, because we were struggling with really like legacy workflows and things like that and some real cultural things that, you know,—so we talked about managing up, we talked about those kinds of things. That’s all I guess all we want to add is thank you for your great ideas because we are struggling from cultural things and I think some of the things I heard can help with that. Like the reports and things like that.

PARTICIPANT: Thanks, and back over here while I work my way back over there.

PARTICIPANT: Yeah, I guess there were a couple of things. But Michael was talking about the fact that often it didn’t seem to feel like you had much influence on what is actually working, or people aren’t really listening to the ideas. So the suggestion was that I’ve been actually aed to do is to do one-on-ones regularly for half an hour each week, that people will schedule that and have that scheduled in your calendar, and that can move, but the point that you have it scheduled means that you’re given some time for your direct reports to actually talk on you and the idea for the one-on-one is not for you to talk but to see how they’re feeling about your issues and if you do this regularly enough then it’s not you as a manager talking down, but you as a manager to really get a feeling for how people are feeling, and that can be really beneficial. And also the fact that it’s scheduled, gives the person who’s having the one-on-one with you, makes them feel like you are actually are making time for them. Which is beneficial in itself. So that was one aspect.

There’s another about the manager micromanaing in a way, or just wanting to –

PARTICIPANT: Yeah, so I guess we were talking about how good management is about being supporting the people who report to you, more than telling them what to do, so much. And that’s something that I think a few of us have encountered managers who see, that they justify that position by making decisions or telling you to do things in a way and trying to figure out how to work around that without creaing a confrontation or bruising their ego, and we talked about maybe just ways of saying yes to the suggestions without actually having to do them. And saying yes, that’s a great idea, and we’re really going to take that on board and coming back maybe with something else that you did that you were always going to do and say how much their idea inspired you and just sort of make them feel like you’re not confronting them, but still they feel important somehow. Which you shouldn’t have to do, but the reality is that bad managers seem to be quite prevalent.

Thanks. Anybody else in the room got anything they want to share or does everybody just want to eat?


That’s a fair answer, if everybody just wants to go earlier to go to lunch. All right. Gina, you want any closing thoughts?

PARTICIPANT: I will just say, this is just in general, this was actually very a nice topic. Thanks very much.

Gina: Yeah, I guess the only ore thing I would say is that there were a lot of different conversations that happened at these tables, but the beauty o SRCCON is that these conversations don’t have to end here and so the etherpad is here so if you have questions that might come up or something comes to you that yeah, that worked for me we’d love for you to add to it so if we come up to a situation that we didn’t have a solution for before, so yeah, let’s keep this conversation live if we can.

Justin: All right, thanks everybody. Go eat.