The people we've hired are enterprising, dogged and devoted to excellence.
Michael R. Fancher
Times executive editor
Two Sundays ago I wrote about factors that have driven record turnover among the news staff of The Seattle Times. This week I'll explain what we're doing about it, and introduce a few of the new people working for your newspaper.
For starters, readers should understand that The Times is able to hire really great people, but finding them is arduous. In a hot labor market, the best people have lots of options.
Times Managing Editor Alex MacLeod believes that an important selling point to prospective employees is this newspaper's commitment to quality, independent journalism and connection to community. "The local family ownership is a big attraction because it is so rare, increasingly rare," he said.
Of the effort to hire some 65 staffers last year, MacLeod said, "It's been very time-consuming only because we're so selective. We look really hard to find people with a track record that demonstrates the quality and humanistic values so important to us."
Patricia Foote, assistant managing editor for hiring and staff development, agrees. The challenge of finding the right people goes beyond merely responding to applicants. Success requires networking throughout the industry to solicit the top candidates
The best sources are staff referrals, attending industry conferences, calling trusted colleagues and tracking talented people through their careers. "That's all very time-consuming," Foote said. Foote says she looks for "people who want to grow and who have the potential to grow." The newspaper business is changing so fast that we need to be positioned for the future. "You have to keep getting better to keep up."
A first test is whether, during the interview, candidates say they want to grow in their career, can explain how they plan to do that, have a sense of what help they need and can tell why they think The Times is the right place for them. "If I don't get that un-prompted, I generally believe this person doesn't belong here," Foote said.
Another test is how well they listen and the quality of their questions. Foote expects applicants to investigate us as hard as we're investigating them. She assesses how much homework they've done before they get here -- about the newspaper and about the specific job.
Other criteria involve diversity and fit. We're always looking for people who bring new insights and experiences. The people who will do best here are ones who combine strong, individual initiative with an affinity for teamwork.
"If they are the Lone Ranger, they're not going to do well in our newsroom," Foote said.