June 07, 2004

Invisible Management

New York Times executive editor Bill Keller, in an interview with David Shaw of the L.A. Times, makes a good point about newsroom management: It should be invisible to readers. Writes Shaw:

He says he's "more of a delegator by nature and I don't want to step on the department heads' toes." Still, he knows that "everyday details are important, and you have to know enough of the details so that everyone realizes you're really involved in the process."

For him, that process began with replacing several department heads and beginning an overhaul of several sections in the paper.

"We've now gotten to the point where we can stop focusing on how the place is run and start focusing on what we're supposed to do cover the news," he says. "Readers don't care whether the paper is run in a less authoritarian manner or if people are happier here now. They care whether the paper is doing a better job."

In other words, the internal workings of the paper -- the struggle between competition and collaboration, the production issues, the budget balancing, etc. -- mean nothing to the readers. Their interest is in the end result, and good management creates an environment and a process that focuses on that result in spite of the natural obstacles that arise in making a daily newspaper.

No one -- except for other butchers -- wants to see the sausage being made.

Posted by Tim Porter at June 7, 2004 07:56 AM