Take a bow Scarlett Syse! The hard-working newsroom veteran has taken top individual honors as the Editor of the Year in the just announced and intensely competitive LMA 2012 Editorial Contest.
Syse was recognized for her work at the 13,000 circulation Daily Journal in Franklin, Indiana where she rolls up her sleeves to work directly with her talented staff to create compelling multi-platform content. According to the contest judges from Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University “Scarlett Syse functions quite well while wearing the full complement of editor hats. She is a leader, an innovator, an important voice in the community, a prudent manager of resources, and a top-notch journalist whose newspaper, while on the small side, competes very ably against the largest in Indiana.”
Under her leadership, the Daily Journal staff has won numerous writing, design and journalism excellence awards, including honors for investigative reporting and community service.
“I am honored and humbled to be recognized,” Syse said. “It takes a village to put out a great newspaper, and I have worked with many talented and committed journalists who don’t take shortcuts and do journalism the right way. They deserve the credit.”
Syse served as the Daily Journal online editor for a year before being named editor in September 2000 and among other accomplishments, developed the newspaper's first website. She has also guided a series of new initiatives in the paper including the Where They Stand candidate pages; Brave Hearts, a section chronicling the journey of breast cancer survivors; and numerous design changes.
In his nomination letter, Publisher Chuck Wells saluted Syse’s involvement with both staff and community. “Scarlett’s commitment to her staff is unmatched,” said Wells. “All good leaders work hard to surround themselves with talent and they spend a great deal of time and energy developing that talent. We promoted Scarlett earlier this year to Group Editor. We were afforded the opportunity to promote her replacement from within the existing staff at the Journal. Michele Holtkamp and Annie Goeller have been promoted as Editor and Managing Editor and are doing amazing work. They would be the first to tell you that Scarlett had a great deal to do with their success in those positions. “
Wells also commended Syse’s hands on leadership through ‘drastic’ operational changes including her masterful handling of the consolidation of design work for three papers to a single production desk and a simultaneous change in editorial operating systems. “Scarlett worked countless hours with the staff on everything from template creation to font selection to content production,” said Wells. “She truly led by example and her staff responded. We now produce four newspapers at one location, all of which is being done with a new operating system.”
Like all good editors, Syse knows the importance of not just reporting on the community but being a part of it and her work goes well beyond the walls of the newsroom. She is actively engaged in service and among many outreach efforts, she leads the community spelling bee each year as well as the Johnson County Athlete of the Year Program. She works with Leadership Johnson County in developing the future leaders of our community. And somehow, she finds time to work with the community Good Cheer Fund which delivers food baskets to the needy during the holidays.
She also serves on the freedom of information and newsroom seminar committees for the Hoosier State Press Association and is a member of the board of directors of Indiana Associated Press Managing Editors and the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame.
I believe newspapers have a high obligation of service to the community. Our public service mission is rooted in the First Amendment.
Newspapers -- the Fourth Estate -- empower readers by giving them a voice and letting them know what is going on in government and elsewhere.
We are a watchdog looking out for abuses or impending policies that have an impact on citizens. We ask public officials to explain how they are spending tax money, why they are not addressing certain issues and if their programs are working. We make sure they are doing the public's business in public, not behind closed doors.
At the same time, it's the story of people, their hopes, dreams, tragedies and fears, that breathes life into our news pages.
I believe it is just as important to write about the 10-year-old boy who made the honor roll, the high school athlete who made the winning shot and the lady down the street who achieved her lifelong dream.
Our job is to make you laugh, make you cry, make you care and even make you mad. Newspapers must lead the community, provoke it to action, celebrate its accomplishments and scold it for its missteps. Good newspapers are feisty and provocative and compassionate and fun. We are a marketplace for goods, services and ideas.
My mantra to reporters and editors is this: get out and talk to the people of Johnson County; look for issues at meetings, don't cover them like a stenographer; be innovative; give the reader context, perspective, depth and nuance; embrace change; write for readers, not sources; look at stories in non-traditional ways; write bright; ask why over and over again; challenge conventional wisdom; look for humor; see the big picture; sweat the small stuff.
Scarlett Syse, editor, Daily Journal (lnd.)
LMA Editor of the Year