What is a News Director and Its Role in Government Agencies
People around the world are interested in events occurring throughout America. According to a recent report by the Pew Research Center, 48% of countries closely monitor news in the United States. American news outlets interested in raising their global profiles—including those within government agencies—need leaders with international perspectives.
What is a news director? A news director in a news agency oversees all aspects of news production. This professional manages the selection and creation of stories, ensuring that content aligns with an organization’s goals and vision. A news director spends the majority of their time in editorial planning, scheduling, and various editing activities. An individual in this role also manages personnel and budgets and provides insights on technology platforms relating to effective content production and dissemination. A news director often interacts with the public, participating in community relations.
In government agencies, a news director plays an integral part in publicizing government-related information, including news about critical issues and events. For example, NASA’s press office provides updates on current and future space missions via press releases, news briefings, and social media. The online media newsroom of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posts announcements about public health issues such as the use of e-cigarettes and its effects on the lungs.
An advanced degree, such as an online Master of Arts in Diplomacy, prepares professionals interested in pursuing a news director role in an international news organization or government agency. The curriculum cultivates an understanding of foreign policy, different cultures, and global economics—knowledge crucial for a news director responsible for selecting stories with a focus on international and national government affairs.
The Importance of a News Director
What is a news director without high editorial standards? With journalistic integrity at the center of operations, a news director leads a team of writers, editors, and creative professionals to produce high- quality and accurate content.
High ethical and editorial standards help provide the public with correct, detailed information regarding national news, events as well as critical governmental affairs. Leveraging these standards, a news director working within a government organization, such as the U.S. Agency for Global Media, maintains high editorial standards to support the organization’s mission. For this federal agency, a news director would help advance "the American values of democracy and free expression" to promote "American interests through stability, peace, alliances, and trade."
Similarly, news directors working at the Federal Communications Commission Media Bureau apply ethical and editorial standards to support their organization’s mission to promote innovation in cable television, broadcast television, and radio markets through the dissemination of information, policy, and licensing program oversight.
Skills and Competencies
Leadership, critical thinking, and interpersonal skills are fundamental to the news director position. Other skills include:
Leadership and interpersonal skills are essential when managing teams of writers, editors, producers, and other professionals. Team management includes the ability to encourage performance and build trust, which requires strong communication skills.
News directors who are business savvy understand the financial side of the newsroom and ensure that the editorial standards of the news function remain stable in the face of business pressures.
News organizations are deadline-driven, which often creates a fast-paced, intense environment. The creation of content is a highly creative process and subject to differing opinions from people with a wide range of personalities. The subject matter of news also can be urgent and traumatic. The ability to handle conflict helps manage these different factors.
Building Positive Environments
Despite addressing conflicts that arise from high-intensity newsroom environments, news directors should possess a calm demeanor and an ability to create a positive workplace culture. And what is a news director without the curiosity to ask questions and get input? Asking the team for input provides new perspectives and makes the staff feel valued, which builds a positive environment.
While the First Amendment to the Constitution protects the freedom of the press, the era of "fake news," puts the media under pressure from different groups. News directors must be willing to fight for the integrity of their organizations.
News directors serve their communities, whether local, regional, national, or global. Knowing that a particular community is essential for gathering information and creating relevant news. Choosing news topics often requires interacting with different audiences and building relationships.
Planning and Strategy
News directors with the vision and an affinity for innovation strengthen the purpose and effectiveness of their organizations. Keeping pace with trends is vital for planning and strategy. The ability to foresee the impact of trends is critical.
The median salary for a news director is $57,252, according to October 2019 data from the compensation website PayScale. Depending on experience and location, a news director can earn more. For example, a news director with 10 to 20 years of experience can earn an average of $66,000 to $79,000 a year. News director salaries are also contingent on location. In New York City, a news director earns a median salary of $87,500. The median salary in Dallas is $110,000, according to PayScale.
How to Become a News Director
News directors typically are graduates of undergraduate journalism and broadcasting programs. While the educational requirements for news directors vary on organizations and responsibilities, the combination of an advanced degree and work experience can position professionals to assume a top role of a news department or work at a larger global organization.
In preparing for a career as a news director, particularly in a government agency, students should consider how Norwich University's online Master of Arts in Diplomacy program can refine the skills to pursue the role with confidence. In particular, the International Commerce concentration offers graduates the skills and knowledge to work with international groups such as the media, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations. The Diplomacy and Communication course explores the communications challenge of ensuring transparency in a tech-driven world and explains the crucial role of clear, culturally aware communication in diplomatic situations.
Newsrooms have many players, from planning editors and news writers to senior producers and managing editors. The path to becoming a news director can begin with any of these roles. It is common, however, for assistant news directors to advance to the news director position. An assistant news director typically already possesses a strong news background and proven management skills. Additionally, they have demonstrated the ability to execute news strategy and vision, ensuring the accuracy and fairness of content, and promoting journalistic integrity among staff members.
With a longstanding commitment to public service, Norwich University offers relevant programs in diplomacy that empower graduates to pursue news director roles in global and government organizations. Explore the online Master of Arts in Diplomacy and learn how you can prepare to take on exciting opportunities with government agencies and globally-minded news organizations.
Many People in Other Countries Closely Follow News About the U.S., Pew Research Center
Master of Arts in Diplomacy, Norwich University
Media Contacts and Information, NASA
CDC Newsroom, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
SPJ Code of Ethics, Society of Professional Journalists
Strategy and Results, U.S. Agency for Global Media
7 Skills News Directors Need Now, Radio Television Digital News Association
Incoming! Advice for the Newly Named News Director, Radio Television Digital News Foundation
Average News Director Salary, PayScale
Average News Director Salary in New York, New York, PayScale
Average News Director Salary in Dallas, Texas, PayScale
NAB's Guide to Careers in Television, National Association of Broadcasters