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American Journalism Review
The Feedback Consultant  | American Journalism Review
From AJR,   May 1998

The Feedback Consultant   

By Alicia C. Shepard
Alicia C. Shepard is a former AJR senior writer and NPR ombudsman.     

This newspaper...has discovered consultants in a big way. We have hired consultants to revitalize the company. We have hired another batch to help reporters learn how to connect with the community.
Last week, the newsroom staff received the following memo: ``The newsroom leadership team is working to develop a better way to give feedback and help people do their best work. The team is starting with itself. It is beginning to develop clear expectations for each team member's work, tools to determine if there are gaps between expectations and performance, activities to close any gap and ways to assess progress. It will take two or three months to develop this system.''
Naturally, the bosses have hired a consultant to teach them how to provide feedback. In the old days, the newsroom leadership team--which was, by the way, much, much smaller--never seemed to give much thought to the intricacies of proper feedback. Instead, they talked to us. Sometimes they yelled. If they yelled especially loudly, we considered it `negative' feedback....
Our feedback consultant has an MBA. That gives me a lot of confidence. But this isn't just an ode to better feedback. Bear in mind that newspaper people are in the communications business, and when we decide that we need a consultant to teach us how to communicate with each other, it means that the consultants have won.

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