Leading Generation Y in the Newsroom

by Lindsey Wray

Woodstock meets American Idol.

Baby Boomers and people from Generation Y sharing a newsroom is like this strange encounter. But just because your musical tastes are miles away from your colleague’s doesn’t mean your work styles have to clash.

News gathering is already a frenzied operation. Striking a balance between generations can help everyone work toward the goal of effectively bringing the news to the public.

Members of Generation Y bring a particular set of strengths and a new set of challenges to the workforce. Born after 1978, they were shaped by historical events such as 9/11 and the Columbine High School shootings and grew up using technology such as iPods and TiVo.

So, how does this translate to the newsroom?

Members of Generation Y:

1) Want feedback – Generation Yers were raised with positive reinforcement and have high self-esteem. They seek guidance – positive and negative – to keep them on the right track.

2) Seek expert, organized bosses who don’t intimidate – Because they were heavily parented and programmed throughout their school years, their time was largely managed by others. They’re looking for open-minded leaders who will mentor them instead of threatening them.

3) Are success-oriented – Generation Yers often come from families with parents who encouraged and recognized achievement. They ask a lot of questions because they, too, want to succeed, not because they’re trying to be annoying.

4) Are tech-savvy – Whether it’s video games, the Internet or cell phones, technology has always been a part of their lives. They’re comfortable using it both in their personal lives and in the newsroom.

5) Are accustomed to immediacy – Members of Generation Y are accustomed to receiving instant gratification through e-mail, instant messaging and digital cameras. This facility, if well managed, can help with quality news coverage.

6) Are tolerant of differences – Generation Y members are embrace diversity, from ethnicity to sexual orientation.

Knowing these traits will help leaders understand Generation Y journalists in the newsroom, but Generation Y journalists should also know how to manage their Baby Boomer and Generation X bosses. Here are some tips for managing up the generational ladder:

1) Be patient – Generation Yers may think they know the ins and outs of a particular career, but they should be open to on-the-job training.

2) Understand and appreciate company history – Baby Boomers and Generation Xers have simply been in the workplace longer than Generation Yers, and they have ideas and expertise to share.

3) Realize dedication – Older employees have worked hard to get where they are and are often loyal to their companies.

4) Be willing to learn – Though technologically savvy, members of Generation Y should be willing to learn that Baby Boomers and Generation Xers have many other skill sets to offer. Even in a newsroom, not all skills are digital.

This article was based on a workshop conducted by Jill Geisler, Leadership and Management Group Leader at the Poynter Institute, for the 2007 International Women’s Media Foundation U.S. Leadership Institute in Chicago. For more information on or to apply for the next leadership institute, visit www.iwmf.org/programs/leadership.

Lindsey Wray is the IWMF’s communications coordinator.

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