She was about to cover her first NBA playoffs and was nervous. My hometown team, the Sacramento Kings, were going up against the Los Angeles Lakers with Shaq and Kobe and everyone was super excited. But when my reporter arrived at the arena for a live shot, she panicked. Told me she wasn’t ready. That’s when I got bossy and told her, “Yes, you are. You’re going live right now!” She did and her report was terrific.
I’ve trained more than 100 news reporters. Many of them are now working in major markets across the U.S. Most starting out are afraid to go live from a breaking news scene such as a fire or police shooting until they gather information. I have to coach them through it. Tell them to describe to me what they’re seeing within minutes as they arrive on scene. I am pushy with them. And bossy. And typically, the results are great. Because someone pushed them, believed in them and elevated their game.
There’s been a lot of talk and national writing about the firing of New York Times editor Jill Abramson. Sadly again, the same old stereotyped, narrative arose. She was fired for being a women. The tired old story goes a woman in leadership positions are deemed bossy and pushy while men are considered confident, strong leaders.
Let’s stop that stereotype right now. I’ve been fortunate to have never been held back in my 25 years in the news business, whether I had a male or female boss. I realize that’s not the case for everyone. But we all know, whether you’re in journalism, business or another career, there’s a bad boss and a good boss. A mean supervisor criticizes you, doesn’t offer help or solutions and holds you back from your true potential. A good manager knows what you are capable of achieving before you even know it and pushes you to accomplish that goal.
I was driving to work a few years ago when I saw a sign promoting The Sacramento Bee newspaper’s upcoming project — a series on methamphetamine. Darn! My staff has been planning the same series but had not yet gotten it off the ground. I raced in, called a meeting with reporters, editors and producers and within an hour we brainstormed and had seven different segments assigned. Within 48 hours, we were on the air with “Sacramento: Valley of Meth.” It won a national Edward R. Murrow award for Best Series, which in most broadcast circles is considered the equivalent of a Pulitzer Prize.
My radio station, KFBK, broke the biggest story in Sacramento, California, in the past three years by reporting those same Sacramento Kings were considering moving to Anaheim. After my reporter broke the story, I wouldn’t let him rest for four months. We enterprised new story angles daily even when there wasn’t one. We broke the story, so we were going to own it. We pushed the story nonstop with each new development morning, noon and night, never letting up. We not only gave our listeners new content, but attracted new listeners to the station. By being aggressive. There is no gender attached to that.
I’ve angered some of my reporters with being too pushy and bossy, but afterwards, they were grateful. They have all thanked me for pushing them beyond what they thought they were capable of achieving. Maybe because several people did it for me. Because someone has to be the boss. And there’s nothing wrong with that.