The good reporter who became a bad reporter (and how to be good again)

Are you doing the right things to retain your top performers?

By Tim Wolff, Futuri’s VP, TV and Digital Publishing Innovation

The full article lives on, the website of the Radio Television Digital News Association

How do you use your best people?

I’ve learned a lot over the years in news management. One of the earliest and most profound lessons was what happens when managers think their job is to plug people in where they can operationally succeed that day.

Let me explain what mean and how I learned this. Early in my career, when I was a news producer, we had an incredible reporter. He enterprised lead stories every day, was brilliant covering breaking news, and often left extra packages for later shows. He could also dive in to tricky stories and make them make sense, all with a positive, willing attitude.

The editorial decision-makers knew this, of course. So every day, the other reporters got the easy, no enterprise needed stories, while he had to come up with his own lead stories and take on the toughest stories of the day. And then he’d get pulled for big breaking news first, while other reporters just did their one easy package and left.

This went on for probably close to two years. Then one day, I noticed his package and live shot were just ok; not horrible, but not up to his standards. And the next day he had no story ideas, and again seemed to mail in his package and live shot. I wasn’t a manager then, but I knew something was up. I pulled him aside the next day and asked him how he was.

He seemed surprised for a second, then exhaled and said something like, “I guess it’s obvious, right?”

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Tim Wolff is Vice President of TV and Digital Publishing Innovation at Futuri. He has 20+ years of experience as a digital and broadcasting leader who’s led top-performing teams across the country at companies including Gannet, Belo, and Cox Media Group Ohio, which includes three daily newspapers, three radio stations, WHIO-TV, and more. Wolff, who holds a Master’s in Journalism from the University of Missouri, also makes a mean green chile stew. You can see his live presentation “What News Managers Need Now” at the upcoming NAB conference. To learn more or continue the conversation, email him at or message him on Linkedin at
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