Community media’s managers, organizers and leaders often come through the ranks and have to make the same mistakes over and over again. I am writing this series from my experience, in hopes of helping new managers, organizers and leaders in community media not to make the same mistakes. Anything you may have previously learned about managing goes out the window in community media. It is a challenging place to work and organize people. A few best practices can get you in the right direction.
Part of that process is correction. Addressing issues is not about accusing or attacking, but offering suggestions and input to make things more inclusive. Always keep the goal of making the community media outlet better as the primary objective.
Corrections are never a comfortable situation. These experiences can be stressful for rank-and-file volunteers as well as you. Do what you can to make people comfortable with a discussion first. Offer something to drink and help people relax. I keep peppermints in my office, and everyone loves having one before we start.
A goal for a community media leader is to think in a situation and make others think. Avoid making a situation worse by getting into disputes about events, actions, intent, etc. Pushing people to think rather than reacting to everything said is your focus. The best-case situation is that all corrections be objective, accurate and factual. Concentrate a correction on what is creating most problems for your particular media.
In community radio, as in life, I have found many people assume issues are not their problem or their fault. It is even harder to get volunteers to step up to the plate and take responsibility for addressing problems. Thus community media managers and leaders must find ways to offer correction in an appropriate way. When volunteers shift the blame, refocus the conversation and ask what they will do differently to make corrective behavior a reality.
Finally, make sure to take notes, keep files in order and document discussions in writing, via email or memorandum. In the event of a challenge or a lawsuit, these notes will be helpful. Speaking from a Pacifica standpoint, I will be the first to tell you, yes, legal action can result from what happens in a community media space, so be aware.