Sunday Morning Meditation – Regarding Dena
Approximately one year ago, I got an email from someone named Dena Mellick.
“If you think my copy editing experience at CNN and other local organizations could be of use to you and Decaturish, please let me know,” she wrote. “I am a fan of the site, and it would be an honor to contribute.”
I’ve been fortunate to have lots of talented people writing for Decaturish. All of my contributors have some level of journalism experience. Three of them also work at CNN, and one writes for the Atlanta Journal Constitution. But Dena stands out. She embraced the Decaturish brand. It’s hard for larger organizations to get employee buy-in, much less smaller ones that operate on shoe-string budgets.
Dena’s support of what we’re doing doesn’t mean she is a Kool-Aid drinker, however. She challenges me. If she thinks there’s a better way of doing something, she’s not afraid to say so.
It’s easy to see why companies promote and enable “yes” people. You want someone who believes in what you’re doing and is loyal. Dena is both of those things, but she’s not blind. I’ve scrapped more than one idea because I’ve gotten a note from Dena that essentially said, “Are you sure you want to do that?”
She’s polite, of course. Infinitely so. Dena also does her homework before she speaks her mind. Every time she challenges one of my assumptions, she provides at least two or three sources to back up her point. It’s hard to argue with her because she’s usually right.
She’s meticulous in her attention to detail. I don’t think I’ve written a single correction on a story that contained her byline, which is more than I can say for myself. She’s also highly organized.
Dena gives this website a polish of professionalism that it sorely needs. Over the last year I’ve learned to trust her judgment implicitly. When my son was born, I gave her the keys to the car and let her run things while I was gone. A one-week assignment turned into two weeks after my son had an unexpected trip to the NICU. Under her command, we had one of our best months ever for page views and unique views.
That’s why I’m expanding her role. Starting this month, Dena will become our new Associate Editor. During the week she will be helping me post and edit stories. She will help me organize and assign freelance work. She’ll also work on some longer in-depth pieces for us.
Her specific beats will be articles about technology, health, and faith. She’s passionate about those topics, and I know she will knock it out of the park.
It’s a proud moment for me. I always wanted to create opportunities for people like Dena. There are a lot of hardworking journalists out there who don’t get their due. I wanted to change that and elevate them to places of leadership within our industry. Journalism doesn’t need “yes” people right now. It needs people who are willing to challenge orthodoxy and are willing to act. Dena will push us to be better.
One of the pitfalls of running a small blog/website is it becomes easily associated with the flaws of the person who created it. I have a number of flaws, but I’d need another column to address them all. Having more people on board gets this site out of the realm of what I’m doing or not doing. It helps the brand stand on its own.
My goal is to take us to a place where the show can go on even if I’m not running it. This is a big step in that direction. Please join me in congratulating Dena on her new role here at Decaturish. She makes us look good.
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