The management style of Paul Steiger
Kevin Helliker of the Brunswick Review profiles former Wall Street Journal managing editor Paul Steiger and notes how many newsrooms are currently being run by his proteges.
Helliker writes, “In an interview, Steiger says that for all the talent he displayed as a writer and reporter, ‘after becoming the LAT’s business editor, I found my top talent. It was for leading and managing. It didn’t happen overnight. When I started, I tried to rewrite everything. That was an obvious mistake. It chewed up too much of my own time, and it demoralized the staff. Better to talk in advance about the potential in the reporting and express what I hoped we could get. Better to be smart about which journalist was in which job, so that we had a winner who didn’t need much guidance. Better to have editing colleagues who could do such guiding as well as or better than I could.’
“Of course, success can nurture its own difficulties, and eventually there swirled beneath Steiger a plethora of talented editors competing to succeed him some day. It helped that his closest confidants, Barney Calame and Richard Tofel, the paper’s standards editor and First Amendment attorney, didn’t aspire to the top job.
“Even so, Steiger says, ‘The challenge was not as great as one might think. The WSJ had a powerful, powerful culture of collaboration. There of course was some sniping and maneuvering. One time I had to sit two people down together and tell them that if the sniping didn’t stop, I would fire them both. But that was rare. People genuinely liked and respected each other. There were passionate arguments but almost always out in the open, on issues of substance rather than personality, and people remained friends afterwards. Another thing that helped was that I worked hard to keep a wide age range among the key players, so there was less inclination for head butting between people at roughly the same ages in closely parallel jobs.'”
Read more here.