The Kneeland Experience

My name is Vicki Bradley, I’m a grad student.. news director… and now a Kneeland Fellow.

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This week, I spent four days in Austin as part of the New Media Leadership Forum. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect… but it didn’t take me long to realize I was in for quite an experience.

Going into this, I didn’t know much about the Kneeland Project…my boss suggested that I apply. I like to take his advice from time to time, so I went for it. He is one of many news directors…well now…a former news director who has been through Kneeland. He told me it was a “career and life altering experience” for him…that’s pretty powerful. So walking into this, I had high hopes! This experience did not disappoint.

0-4To be a journalist is a gift. To be the person chosen to lead a group of journalists is pretty incredible. It’s a gift that comes with a lot of power, some pressure and big expectations. As a news organization we are here to protect democracy. So the decisions we make every day are about more than just ourselves. We have the power to have the greatest impact on people‘s lives.  From the time they wake up and get on their phones, to the time spent watching our newscasts…there is an expectation that we give it our all each day. An expectation that we get it right, no excuses.

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I’ve helped managed newsrooms on and off for the last five years. I got my start as a news producer and just worked my way up the chain. I never dreamed of being a news director. At one point I thought EP was my cap, boy was I wrong.

The news director job is an honor, with a great deal of responsibility. Just like every job in the newsroom…each day is different, each day brings its own set of challenges. As leaders, at least for me…I go into each day thinking how is what we’re covering going to be impactful to someone’s life? How are we making people smarter? How are we making their communities better? Some days I’m able to be in the thick of the stories and can see them through every step of the way. Others, I’m putting out fires, dealing with personnel, not connecting with my team the way I’d like. At times, my to do list feels endless, the days never feel long enough. That pile of work just doesn’t seem to be going down.
Some days I just feel downright defeated, but there is nothing else I’d rather be doing. So, what do you do? I feel like my time at Kneeland gave me some answers. It didn’t resolve all my challenges…but I gained great knowledge, tools and a new perspective on how to lead.

Kneeland Project

Just like most other things, you’re going to get out of the experience what you put into it. This is not like all those other be a better manager workshops you’ve gone to, I promise. You’re learning, you’re doing and you’re connecting to a group of people who are just like you. When I say just like you, I mean other news managers in the fight every single day to be the best they can be for the communities that watch and follow them. From the biggest newsrooms to the tiniest… they’re all hoping to come back as better leaders.0-3

 

Carole Kneeland was a game changer in the world of journalism.
This fellowship was started by people who loved her and wanted to make sure her legacy lives on. Those leading the fellowship are people who actually worked with her, which made it even more special. There were so many times that we heard these personal Carole stories, it really showed you what kind of person she was. Showed you why her legacy is one that needs to be kept alive. While I have sheets and sheets of notes, I won’t go over all of them. There are a couple of things I want to share that really stood out to me during this experience.

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When you are a leader, often you put the lives of those you lead before yours. THAT’S GOT TO STOP!  There are going to be times when you have to be at work all day and all night. When you can’t disconnect from the phone or you can’t disconnect from a project and that’s alright, it’s part of the job. Here’s the thing, that can’t be you all the time. It’s something I struggle with. Well what if I’m not there? What if I go without checking my email an hour? What if I go on vacation and something happens? What if I leave work an hour earlier… so instead of staying until eight tonight I leave at seven and there’s breaking news? 
We think we’re doing the right thing. We want to show everyone… hey I’m here all the time whenever you need me, but that’s not the message we’re really sending. Our leaders aren’t feeling empowered, because we’re always there to make the call. Some employees might feel micromanaged, because no matter what…you’re going to be there to tell them what to do. Our people are not growing, because you are making all the decisions, all of the time. To be fair, sometimes we need to be the ones to make the final call…but a lot of times that’s not the case.
I thought always being there showed how dedicated I am, I now know I was very wrong.
So here’s my takeaway…take time for you. Take the sick day if you need it. Plan a vacation when you can. Go have lunch at school with your kid. You work really hard and you deserve that time. Our job is too great to let yourself get so burned out you have to walk away. You don’t just owe this to yourself, you owe this to the future of our industry.

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Another highlight from my time in Austin, our conversation on inclusion. People don’t feel like they are being represented in the stories we tell. It’s time to really have those tough conversations with your newsrooms. I’m fortunate enough to work for a company where this is already happening. Here are some things to think about in our coverage….  Do we only go to certain neighborhoods, when bad things happen? Do we paint some communities in a bad light based on stereotypes? When we look at our rolodex of experts, is it diverse? Are we really doing the work to get all sides of every story? How are we bringing different voices into our editorial meetings? These are all things that we as news managers must ask ourselves and our teams.
Then we must find ways to improve where we fall short.

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Those are just two of the topics that were covered over four days. I don’t want to give too much away, in hopes that someone will read this and want to get the experience for themselves. Through all of the lessons, the best part of this experience was the people. We were a class of 20, chosen out of 60+ applicants. I now feel so connected to people who were strangers just a week ago.  We shared our struggles, our victories and so many other personal pieces of ourselves. We all even left with a buddy, someone to hold us accountable. Someone to lean on when we’re having a tough day. Someone to share our successes with.

To all my other fellows…our leaders and speakers.. Joan, Kevin, Stacy, Andrew, Michael and Dick… thank you for one of my best career experiences.
This project is doing great things and I cannot wait to see the impact it is going to have in the lives of my 19 new friends and our newsrooms! 0-2

My View: The Innovator’s Dilemma

 

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The news is always changing from the way we record interviews and get video… to how people are now able to watch their favorite broadcasters. When looking at The Innovator’s Dilemma, I really want to focus on how the changing of cell phones has had an impact on the media.

In class we touched on the evolution of the phone– we did not touch on how the phone is now one of the most powerful tools in journalism. In the early days, reporters and cameramen had to lug around those big cameras. They had to record interviews on film and bring it all back to the station and work really hard to get it turned by the 5pm news.

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 These days the news waits on no one. Now reporters are whipping out their cell phones and getting the story told by Noon. Those phones that were just being used to talk to people– are now able to bring them to what’s happening. Think about the advances with things like FaceTime. People no longer have to describe a scene to you, they can just call you up on FaceTime and show you what’s happening.

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When it comes to the news– the big camera doesn’t always get taken out. Granted these days cameras are now considerably smaller than what they were 70 years ago. However, being able to just take out your cell phone to record an interview or get video has certainly been a game changer. It doesn’t stop there either. Cell phones are now also making it so that we can do some pretty cool things on social media… from posting a quick video of something happening. To sending a quick tweet about something we think the world needs to know as soon as it happens.

I love how our phones have evolved — while changing the way journalists are able to do our jobs. It’s certainly made getting the news out there to those that depend on us so much faster.

A Different Kind of Reality

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Immersive Mixed Reality three words with a whole lot of impact to the news world these days. To break it down, it’s the blending of virtual reality together with the real world environment.

Imagine being in your home watching television and suddenly you find yourself caught in the middle of a hurricane. Just you with all the elements swirling around you. It’s something that they do in the movies all the time. Now it’s becoming even more popular for networks like The Weather Channel, totally transforming the way we cover weather.

Below is one of the most recent immersive mixed reality segments produced by the network.

This segment really shows how dangerous flooding can be. The way the meteorologist becomes part of the scene really brings the dangers alive. Really engages someone watching far more than just hearing someone talk about what can happen. Or just seeing old video from previous flooding.

Other networks like ABC also use cool technologies like augmented reality to bring us some of the biggest weather stories. Good Morning America’s Ginger Zee often does it to help illustrate some of the most dangerous weather conditions across the country.

I love seeing these technology advances in my field. I long for the days when a station like mine will be able to take advantage of these cool advancements in our field.

Master’s Matters: Purpose behind my graduate school journey

When I started college in 2003, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life… well at least not with my career.  I’ve always had a love for writing. I never knew just how much it would become part of my life. My sophomore year of college came fast and I haIMG_1696d to declare a major. So, I took one of those assessments and when the results came back, I was pointed in the direction of the communications building… and I never looked back.

Since getting into news management… something that’s been a little heartbreaking is watching younger journalists be disappointed, by what they thought their first news job would be. It’s something I first saw in Texas and it’s what inspired me to get my master’s degree. I want to help mold our future journalists… by reaching them and teaching them while they are still in the classroom.

A lot of times the disappointment… boils down to unrealistic expectations of what the business is like. I know there are some GREAT professors out there. I know a lot are people who were once in the business and have now dedicated their lives to teaching. The problem though, this business is constantly changing and sometimes people fail to keep up.

When you first get into this industry, most people do not realize that the first year is going to be tough. I’m not saying you’re going to be miserable the entire time. Or even ignoring the fact that some people have found their first jobs to be a breeze. There’s just a lot of on the job learning, that some people are not prepared for. You spend your first six months to a year trying to figure it all out. Eventually you get the hang of it and things are a little easier… but it’s a grind that never stops.

While many of us have made it on the other side, there are some who give up before they give a career in journalism a real chance. I want to be someone who gets ahead of that. I want to be the person who brings the voice of realism into the classroom. If we’re being honest, every day I’m teaching… it’s part of the territory in a small market newsroom. It’s also something that can be so rewarding. The ND job can be tough, but I personally find joy in watching my team grow. I love to see them push themselves and each other. I love seeing someone that had a hard Monday, come back on Tuesday ready to win the day.

Now, while I definitely have this desire to teach… I have no desire to leave this industry any time soon. I certainly think as time goes on (maybe not right now) there will be time for me to do both. I’m excited about where our industry is going. I know our future journalists are going to do great things and I can’t wait to see what’s next.

 

Scott Saxton: The man, the myth, the news LEGEND!

No matter what field you’re in, we’ve all had people who have touched us along the way. From college professors, colleagues and in my case an INCREDIBLE boss.
You’ve probably seen me post from time to time about Scott Saxton.
Those posts only scratch the surface of the impact he’s had on my life and so many other journalists getting their start.

Stolen from Scott’s profile pic 🙃

I met Scott when he hired me as a producer in the Fall of 2009.
After nearly two years of nos, he gave me my first yes.
He was the first person willing to take a chance on me and I give him so much credit for the professional I’ve become.

In a field where morning shows can often be forgotten, when new employees can be lost in the crowd…Scott was always there.
I was hired to produce a 2 hour morning show and it wasn’t like copy and paste two hours. Scott had a very specific vision for the show and I carry that same standard with me everywhere I go.

During the early hours while most people were sleeping…Scott was out the door. Not sure if he does it anymore, but he would get up and run and then be back in time for my 5am show. If he saw something that needed to be changed or he didn’t like, there was always a friendly email… instantly. At first as a new producer it seemed harsh, but he was teaching me so much. In my early months producing Scott and I would meet every morning almost right after my show and we’d talk about what worked and what didn’t. More of that one-on-one feedback that helped make me a better producer and person. Feedback that kept me motivated to be better everyday. Feedback that helps me still today, give everything my all.

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For 10 years he has been a fearless leader in the WECT newsroom in Wilmington. Today he says goodbye to this industry, for now. Through those years he has touched so many lives. I reached out to a few of my WECT alum for a little help with this goodbye.

“I applied to over 100 jobs when I was close to graduating college. I heard back from three stations and interviewed with 2. I was so grateful for Scott. He hired me straight out of college and I hit the ground running. That job helped me grow up. It taught me the skills I needed so I could find my dream job. He also helped me find my husband. I am forever grateful to Scott Saxton. Good luck in your career change!” – Nikki Reck

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“My life would be much different if Scott Saxton didn’t offer me the opportunity at WECT. Sure, I would’ve found another small-market job somewhere but his style of leadership and news judgment was just what I needed. The story I choose to share doesn’t really reflect that, but it’s a fair account of what there is to love about him. We’re in the middle of wall-to-wall for a hurricane. Everyone is working long hours and most of us are soaking wet. There’s more food in the news room than a cooking segment, election night and Super Bowl potluck combined. At one point I was standing next to the managers as they talked out our plan for continuing coverage. Scott looked like he just woke up from a nap that was too short on an air mattress that was under-inflated. I’d never seen a boss like that. I’d also never seen someone FREAK OUT over chicken salad like that. The assignment manager had walked up with some on his plate. Scott was mid-sentence when he noticed the food and shouted. The exact quote is fuzzy but it was something along the lines of “And you’re eating all the chicken salad!” or “How much chicken salad have you had?!” It broke some tension from the seriousness of the hurricane. It woke up those of us feeling sleep-deprived. It showed me what a comical, quality person Scott is. TV news needs more Scott Saxton’s. His reason for leaving the business is proof of it. Maybe his family will share the chicken salad.” -Craig Reck

“Scott understands the importance of developing talent through opportunity. I was a morning producer when we met. But he gave me a chance to develop as a reporter and anchor. Those opportunities have shaped my career. His thoughtful leadership, empathy and compassion is what this industry needs more of. I’m happy for his new endeavor, and I will miss him working in television news.” – Tim Pulliam

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“I will always remember your calm and confident leadership style. I asked you once if you were nervous for your job interview to become the news director at WECT, and you said- “No! I knew they’d hire me.” I thought that was so awesome! I make it a point now to walk into every meeting, presentation or important event I have with your same confidence. You’ve been an excellent boss and news director, and I am so lucky to have spent some of the earlier years of my career working for you. Best of luck in your next adventure! —Cheers, Claire (Hosmann) Simmons

Scott will always downplay what it has meant for many of us to have him as a boss. He never takes credit for how he’s shaped so many of our careers. Even today, I feel very blessed to have him as a friend and to know he’s just one text away when I need him.

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I encourage all news managers to be a Scott to the people you manange. You never know the impact you’re having on their lives.

Today this business is losing one of the good ones. They don’t make them like Scott anymore!

 

Getting Deep on Deepfakes’ Impact on Journalism

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It’s kind of hard to go deep on something you don’t really understand. Since deepfakes really are all about faking it.. I think I’ll be okay.

So here’s what I understand deepfakes to be— the use of artificial intelligence in videos or pictures to make it appear that someone is saying or doing something they are not. The whole concept of using artificial intelligence to manipulate a person’s image is scary, but not surprising. We live in a time where almost anything is possible, NEVER forget that!

Here’s where deepfakes get down right frightening. Right now social media is king and there are no limits. If someone saw it on Facebook, well it must be true *double eye roll*. During a time when media is still being referred to as “fake news” we should be concerned about what deepfakes could do to our industry. Allow me to break down my top two concerns.

First, as journalists we are the truth seekers… we should be the authority on what’s wrong and right. We are the whistleblowers, we carry the torch for the people. There’s a lot of weight that comes along with the job.. but what happens when you can no longer tell what’s real from what’s fake?

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Last year there was a video created of former President Barack Obama using deepfakes. In it Obama gives a PSA about fake news, little did anyone know what was really going on. The video was made by director Jordan Peele’s entertainment company. The whole thing was Peele himself, but thanks to artificial intelligence we were none the wiser. It sounds cool, but then you think about the harm that could have caused. What if someone hacked Obama’s social media accounts while he was president and used deepfakes. Imagine the kind of world chaos that could have erupted and the news would have been at the center of it all. People turn to us to get information out because of our reach. We would have been responsible for sharing wrong and harmful information and not even known it…until it was too late.

My second concern is what deepfakes could do to the reputation of a journalist. There’s a lot of power and respect once your career reaches a certain level. So imagine if a trusted reporter or news anchor did something to piss someone off. Think about the things that could be done with deepfakes to ruin their reputation. Think about the kind of fear that could put in a truth seeker. Deepfakes could be used to silence journalists concerned about how something like artificial intelligence could ruin them. As I mentioned before, in the days of social media it doesn’t take much.

Now I’m not a complete artificial intelligence hater. I understand the use for making things cool in movies and being creative. I just think… just maybe we should do better about not giving it all away. It shouldn’t be so easy to ruin a person’s life or career with a cell phone app.