How free should editorial freedom be and what does it have to do with leadership?

I write a bi-weekly article for our local newspaper. I am a volunteer.
I write from my own personal experiences and attempt to tie those back to leadership and the human spirit, in hopes of ultimately sharing my own lessons. I understand they have editorial freedom; but they have changed a few of my submissions in a way that alters my voice. And that feels personal.
I write for free because it helps me position myself in my local market. It also allows people access to my point of view, in business, and in life, that they may not otherwise be exposed to. I think these are professional benefits worth my writing effort. 
I like to write. I have always liked to write. And I have, thankfully, had a very good response from readers.
I am not naive enough to believe that I am selling a lot of papers, but I might be selling a few. I am also not naive enough to believe that my writing never requires edits. But, what if they could actually help me become a better writer with their edit suggestions? What if they worked with me to become better, instead of just changing what they didn’t like? Because when I read how my personal account of something is no longer my ‘personal’ account’, it is unsettling, and offensive. Not to mention risky. If they change my words, they are messing with my public persona and my market. That could impact my position and my business opportunities. 
I have brought this to the attention of the Publisher and the Editor previously, but I realize now, I may not have shared what the greater impact is to me, and my company. I will endeavour to do that this time. 

Their position is that  ‘editors have the final say’, which I am not disputing. I am only asking to be involved in decisions regarding my writings of my personal experiences. It feels fair. Am I being unreasonable?
This situation made me think of how often we change things other people produce or provide, because we think it makes them better. Whether it is our subordinates, our children, our aged parents or our columnist, we do that with little concern or consideration for how that might impact them. What does that say about our leadership? Our control?
As a leader, we have to respect the efforts of our team, but we also have to make correction where necessary. Where we may fall short, is when we make a subjective alteration to make it better, to us, but not necessarily, better to them or to everyone.

What if?
  • We worked with our team by explaining the necessary change.
  • We helped them see why the change is required.
  • We helped them see how the change will make it better.
  • We helped them be better.
  • We functioned less as an authority and more as a coach.
  • We rested less on our ‘right’ to do and more on their ‘right’ to learn.
  • We considered the impact our change would have on them, their motivation, their confidence – their courage to try. 
  • We cared about why they did what they did.
  • We cared less about showing them how wrong they were.
  • We cared more about showing them the good, and how it can be great.
  • We cared more about them and less about ourselves. 

If you believe that “much of a leader’s approach must be formed from the raw material of his or her own life.” (Giuliani, Rudolph W. Leadership, New York, Miramax Books, 2002) Then you must also believe, others raw material is as valuable as your own.  I do.
I will be seriously considering whether or not I continue to write for my local paper. Mostly because it feels like they do not respect me as a writer, or value my input. 
And who wants to work for someone who doesn’t value his or her input?
Who wants to work for someone who doesn’t respect his or her voice?
Who wants to work for someone who is always right?
Not me.

  • kevin cotten
    Posted at 03:43h, 26 August

    Tanya, this is your most insightful piece to date. It's unfortunate that it stems from the poor judgement and disrespectful business practice of your paper's editor, but it's good for your readers! Well done!

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