Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sean Holton's Half-Assed Guide to Journalism Mediocrity

Sean Holton
My former Orlando Sentinel colleague, Sean Holton, died today after battling brain cancer bravely and with an intact sense of humor. Sipping Jameson's probably helped too. Sean was a great editor, funny guy and very nice man, among many other things. He kept a funny and honest blog while he was sick and you can read it here.

Here is Sean's obituary from his friend Craig. Here is Jeff Kunerth's detailed and awesome obituary in the Orlando Sentinel. (There is also a Guestbook to sign).

In 2003, he created his "Half-Assed Guide to Mediocrity" and passed out copies to his fellow reporters and editors at the Sentinel. Thanks to Lisa Cianci and Mark Schlueb at the Orlando Sentinel for passing this along. It is good advice for my fellow journalists and my journalism students.

Your goal for today is to neither be half-assed nor mediocre. Oh and maybe to sip some Jameson's. Do it in memory of my friend, Sean.

(Version 3.0: Release date, Jan. 6, 2003)
40 ways to promote mediocrity
1. Don’t care.
2. Don’t try.
3. Be negative.
4. Tolerate mediocrity in others.
5. Rationalize mediocrity in yourself and others.
6. Hide out in your job.
7. Build up a small piece of your job into more than it is, and hide behind that.
8. Be blithe about your mistakes.
9. Hide your mistakes.
10. Make people afraid to admit and correct their mistakes.
11. Don’t connect the quality of everything you do to the quality of the overall paper.
12. Don’t connect the quality of your colleagues’ work to your professional self-interest.
13. Don’t respect deadlines.
14. Don’t learn and respect the newsroom process all the way through the copy desk.
15. Don’t make that next phone call.
16. Don’t read that story printout one last time to make sure everything is exactly right.
17. Believe “good enough” is actually good enough.
18. Dwell on the shit that flows downhill, and don’t set the fires that will burn uphill.
19. Kid yourself that mediocrity deserves an “achieves standards” review.
20. Take no responsibility for your decisions, especially the stupid ones.
21. Cultivate your own martyrdom and encourage martyrdom in others.
22. Be a duplicitous backstabber.
23. Relish the blame game.
24. Be afraid to speak your mind.
25. Be afraid to think big.
26. Be afraid to be an aggressive editor.
27. Be afraid to kick back a story when it’s not good enough.
28. Be afraid to be edited aggressively.
29. Throw a snit when a story is kicked back to you.
30. Hoard power.
31. Confuse power with leadership.
32. Manage through fear and control.
33. Kiss up to your bosses and kick down at your subordinates.
34. Treat full-grown adults like children just because they happen to work for you.
35. Forget about all the people around you who are working their asses off.
36. Don’t treat colleagues with professionalism and respect.
37. Don’t get reviews finished on time.
38. Make everything personal.
39. Take everything personally.
40. Bitch about the law of gravity.


stblue67 said...

Hi Kathryn:

I never really knew Sean. In fact, I can only recall meeting him once, briefly, during my time at the Sentinel, but that's a great list.

I was particularly interested in #17 - "Believing 'good enough' is actually good enough."

At my last paper, our executive editor called a newsroom managers meeting one time after yet another round of staff cuts to inform us that, due to diminished resources, we were all going to have to get comfortable with the idea that "good enough" would have to be good enough in almost all cases.

I've experienced a lot of depressing moments in my career, but that one is right near the top.

RandomReality said...

StBlue: I am sorry that exec editor was such a moron. That thinking helps no one. Maybe Sean's list can cheer you up a little.