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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Chain Chain Chain

Just ten days after being named “news managing editor”, Larry Klaas decided to show us all who’s boss. Presenting: the infamous “chain of command” memo.

I know what Larry was trying to do. He was sending a message to the producer, assignment editor, and director that what he said GOES. He urged all members of the news staff to keep a copy of this chain of command on file for reference. Disagree with Larry? Unless you happened to be the news director, you didn’t stand a prayer. It’s right there, on an 8 ½” by 11” piece of paper.

The producers hated this! Not because of having to answer to Larry, but because in the Klaas command chain, they had no more authority than the assignment editor, and the nebulous “other”. The directors hated this, because under Larry’s law, they were equal to the assistant directors… the assistant producers… and, ahem… INTERNS!

None of that mattered to Larry. The moral of the story was “I am above all of you, and you will listen to me!” But in a newsroom where the producer had to have SOME authority over the assignment desk, and the directors had to call the technical shots during the show, this demonstrated a lack of understanding on several levels. After just ten days, hard feelings were already starting to form. It didn’t mean people didn’t like or respect Larry. They just wanted a little respect in return. By stating they wielded the same power as interns, the implication was the assistant producers, assistant directors, and even the directors were just bit players in the news operation. Of course Larry didn’t really feel that way, but this sure made it look that way, and did nothing for unity, morale, or inspiration in a news operation that needed it badly.

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