Nepotism in the Newsroom: 5 Easy Ways to Cope in a Workplace

ImageONCE UPON A TIME, I worked in a newsroom that had a great involvement of favoritism/nepotism. One of my editors hired his girlfriend on the team to take over one of the sections of our paper. Since then, it seems like she’s had it easy; he always gave good feedback to her about her articles, while the rest of us had to deal with the harsher side of criticism. A couple of us took this to offense at the time because not only did we put our heart and soul into the writing and editing, but it was just completely obvious!

He liked helping her out a lot, too. Sometimes, he would help me out with my section, but for majority of the time, I was the one who was writing about eight articles per week. A few of my co-workers have noticed that my editor had strange priorities, and it might’ve been the reason why the newsroom had such poor management. I discussed with one of my co-workers if they’ve been noticing the favoritism and she told me that she did. In fact, it was aggravating her just as much as it was aggravating me; if not, more.

So here’s how we ended up handling the situation: we discussed it with our managing editor, who seemed quite open and understanding of our concerns. The funny thing was that she almost wanted to agree with us; she wanted to join in with our complaints but being the classy lady that she was, she couldn’t spill out any of her emotions (although her facial expressions showed it). After that, she went spoke to that editor, but did not mention our names.

And he took it to offense, instead; he and his girlfriend felt that the entire newsroom was against them because we, as a crew, felt that there was too much nepotism involved. The girlfriend even considered quitting because of it and he wanted to resolve it all with a “group meeting”.

However, I disagreed to have that happen. There doesn’t need to be a group meeting to discuss the favoritism about them two. In my opinion, here’s what a real boss should do: have a meeting with his girlfriend instead and discuss how they could avoid this kind of situation again. I mean, they’re both love birds working together, what else is there to discuss (unless they don’t have common sense)? They thought we all thought we hated her, which was not the case. It’s the favoritism we didn’t like.

I understand why he would want a group meeting to get some outside opinions but I just felt that it was going too far with it. The managing editor reported a couple of complaints about an obvious situation (that’s their problem and they know it), so why get everyone involved?

I’d like to say that they aren’t horrible people at all (although his girlfriend is quite the sour puss). They’re pretty bright and friendly people! But why cause trouble?

It scared for me for a while when I heard that they both felt offended by this. It was a yellow flag for me saying that their relationship could be POSSIBLY a lot more important than this job.

Before I make this post any longer than it should be, here’s my explanation of what the importance of this post is: Nepotism and favoritism is quite common among workplaces, and from my experience, it could be a tough situation to handle (and sometimes, people have to quit their job because of it). So here’s some advice from the things I learned in order to (calmly) cope with nepotism and favoritism in a workplace:

1. To clear things up a bit, the definition of nepotism is favoritism upon kinship, relatives or friends. Even though my examples aren’t related to each other, they act like they’re gonna get married, so what the hell.

2. Keep record of your suspections. How does the boss favor the other employee? What does the boss do for the employer that he doesn’t do for others? Is he more easy going towards the favorite?

3. Do some research, but keep it classy. You could ask one of your co-workers to see if they’re noticing any favoritism. However, don’t talk down about them. Focus on the main points of your concerns when you talk to a co-worker: “Does it seem like to you that our boss acts a lot differently towards that employer?” (Of course, you could probably phrase this much better than I can). If the co-worker begins to talk down about them, let them know that the boss being an ass, for example, is not your concern. But anyway, if the favoritism increases between the boss and the employee, you will have a co-worker or two to help explain the situation to a supervisor.

4. Trust your gut and pay attention to the past. Gut instincts are (usually) always right. And, it’s also important to focus on your boss’s behavior patterns with former employees when they’re hiring others.

5. Keep stress and motivation in check. Even if you receive the most critical criticism, continue to do your best and top-notch work. Those who do very well in their professions are expected to eat the harsh criticism anyway. 

6. Had it? Report it. Don’t do this if you’re letting your anger get in the way. Only report favoritism when you’ve noticed it’s constant, and when your other co-workers agree to take this with a supervisor. Favoritism is a stressful situation to deal with, but do it when the time is right. This is why it’s good to keep a personal journal of what you’ve witnessed (because I did).

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to deal with nepotism in a workplace. Sometimes, it’s never solved or it just has to be ignored. But if it worsens, you might want to contact a higher position of the company or an attorney, according to HR Hero.com.

When I did my research with my situation, I found out that he hired his girlfriend over another applicant who applied for the same position (and the person who applied for that position told me). Unfortunately, talking to the managing editor was the most I could do but any experience that you can get is good — even if it’s the crappiest. And, it won’t be tolerated in the future.

Benjamin Franklin’s inspiring 13 virtues

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da MAN

I’m currently reading The Autobiography of Ben Franklin for a core humanities class. I came across studying these thirteen virtues for my own self-help, which is magic that Franklin wanted to intentionally put on the reader. All I can say is that these are great virtues and need to be followed more often to calm nerves about life — well, for mine, anyway.

Temperance: Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation

Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversations

Order: Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time

Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve

Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; that is, waste nothing

Industry: Lose not time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions

Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly; speak accordingly

Justice: Wrong none by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty

Moderation: Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think you deserve

Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes or habitation

Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles or accidents common or unavoidable

Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring; never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation

Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates

Investigative Reporting Tips from Vanity Fair’s Suzanna Andrews

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My data and narrative journalism professor, Alan Deutschman, introduces some really amazing and inspiring journalists to the university. I mean, these people work for big time papers and magazines.

The guest he brought to us this week grabbed my full attention and is probably my favorite guest he’s brought so far. It was Suzanna Andrews, a contributing editor to Vanity Fair, who writes features and investigative articles on business, politics, culture and crime — in her definition, her theme of writing is “abuse of power”.

She’s also written for other numerous publications such as The New York Times, GQ, Rolling Stone, and Reader’s Digest. She was also a story consultant to ABC’s “20/20”. She’s won a couple of Front Page awards for her features on Vanity Fair.

As a class assignment and in order to prepare to ask her questions, we were required to read two of her most impacting articles, Murder Most Yale and Arthur Miller’s Missing Act (I suggest you read both of them — they’re really good).

Both feature stories required so much investigation, stalking, credible information, and main sources. How did she do it all? Andrews shares her helpful investigative tips to the class and especially her experiences while writing these stories.

Murder Most Yale is a feature investigative article by Andrews based on the murder of Yale student, Suzanne Jovin, in 1998. It’s a case that is still under investigation today; they say it’s the “college version” of the Jon Benet Ramsey case. Andrews focuses the timeline of the night of the murder in her story, but mainly focuses on the people that surrounded Jovin’s life to find more information on the case.

Jovin’s story was first published in the New York Times — and Andrews said that this story “needed a lot of play”

Finding Personal Recommendations

As you may have noticed in the article, the police weren’t as involved. Andrews said with most crime stories, there will be slim chances that a reporter will get information from the police. Instead of constant calls and emails to set up interviews, Andrews recommends following them instead.

As a semi-experienced reporter, I find it difficult how to contact the main sources I need to talk to for my stories. Some connections may not always lead you to that significant source, but apparently the ones you’d never think who would have any contact with them might actually do! Andrews said during her investigation to find Jovin’s closest friends to interview them, she gotten from a word-of-mouth that a restaurant owner nearby Yale was pretty popular among the students — they loved him. When Andrews approached him, he was able to connect her with Jovin’s friends.

Andrews said each story has source circles; you have to work your way into the hub. You start interviewing those on the outside of the circle: Aquaintinces –> Close friends –> Parents –> Suzanne.

“It gives me time to think about the story and what to collect,” Andrews said. “When I get to the center of the story, I feel like I know the story as much as they do, or better.”

If you get enough attention, your sources might come to you

Andrews said she had a difficult time getting a hold of Jovin’s parents for an interview. After attempts with a few phone calls with them, she had to end up emailing them the interview instead. During the phone calls, the mother could not stop sobbing and the father refused to talk.

“I was horrified calling the parents,” Andrews said. “It was clear to me that they were grief stricken and angry.”

Andrews said you can’t always fire questions; sometimes its best to play it off as a conversation.

“There’s that element of authenticity, too,” Andrews said. “You want to get people to talk.”

However, Jovin’s younger sister approached Andrews with a phone called and accepted an interview. Somehow, she found Andrews.

Andrews said getting in contact with James Van de Velde was one of the most difficult parts writing the story. Van de Velde was Jovin’s professor and thesis adviser, and is a suspect of her murder. Andrews said she could only get a hold of Van de Velde’s emissaries or friends. One emissary of Van de Velde’s that Andrews got to interview was a woman. Like the rest of Van de Velde’s friends, it was expected that this woman would say nothing but good words about the professor. However, Andrews said the woman had different thoughts about Van de Velde and saw him the night of the killing.

“(The story) consumed my life,” Andrews said. “It’s a psychological rage.”

Andrews said during the time of writing this feature, she played out possible scenarios in her head and timed the driving and distances within the area of where Jovin’s body was found.

Does Andrews think Van de Velde killed Jovin? She said yes, but she doesn’t have an exact reason why she was so drawn to write this story.

“I kind of wondered that myself,” Andrews said. “I felt like I was lead to it. I didn’t feel like I was going to nail the professor, but the story latches on to you.”

Andrews’ Arthur Miller’s Missing Act is based on playwright, Arthur Miller (Death Of A Salesman, The Crucible, A View From the Bridge and ex-husband of Marilyn Monroe) and the abandonment of his son, Daniel Miller, who was diagnosed with down-syndrome as an infant.    Miller cut Daniel out of his life immediately and never mentioned him when he brought up his children in books, interviews and even at his wife’s funeral. For 40 years, Daniel was kept as a secret. When Miller died in 2005, it was known to the public that he did not leave a will, but he actually did, and left Daniel a good portion of his money to last him for the rest of his lifetime.

Andrews said it was almost a possibility that Vanity Fair didn’t run article due to the intense emotion of the story and that it could offend those who have a child of down-syndrome of their own. But everyone knew it was a story that deserved attention.

Rebecca Miller, Daniel’s sister and a daughter of Miller’s, is now a close member of her family. Rebecca didn’t allow Andrews to speak to Daniel. In fact, Rebecca and her husband, Daniel Day-Lewis, were disgusted by Andrews’ story. Andrews said she thinks Rebecca was afraid for the safety of her brother.

“This story was fought very hard by Arthur Miller’s family,” Andrews said.

Andrews had the chance to speak to one of Daniel’s caregivers, however. Andrews said she was on the web for days just to find connections between Miller and Daniel. She ended up on a Vietnam Veteran chatroom and spoke to a member who saw Daniel at a party. The member she spoke to in the chat room ended up being the husband of Daniel’s caregiver.

Andrews said when she called up the caregiver for an interview, the caregiver said, “It’s about time.”

After Andrews’ lecture, I feel that I can be more confident in expanding my choices when writing a hard or feature story. So I think I have until tomorrow to meet one-on-one with Andrews in Professor Deutschman’s office until she has to go back to her home in New York City. I would love to see if I have time  to have coffee with her for a more personal talk, but even just a handshake and a short conversation might do well — whatever the outcome is, it’s worth it, right?

Follow Suzanna Andrews on Twitter!: https://twitter.com/AndrewsSuzanna