Through my first week working as an editorial intern at PBS Frontline, the organizational culture and values of the organization have already become apparent through day to day communications and tasks. Outwardly, Frontline is often viewed, and awarded, for producing thoughtful, credible and truth-seeking journalism. I have come to understand that Frontline’s ability to create such work is due to the values and expectations of all employees. Integrity and commitment to truth are defining values of the organizational culture I have come to know, although virtual during my time interning. There is a great sense of trust and respect among all who work there, and I was immediately respected and trusted just like everyone else. However, this mutual respect does not come without high expectations. Thoughtfulness, meticulousness, timeliness and self-motivation are required by all. These values were immediately stressed through my virtual orientation sessions, both with all the WBGH interns and with my direct supervisor. Another key element of culture at Frontline, and I would argue in every journalistic organization, is to never make assumptions and to always ask questions, even if you only have the slightest of uncertainty. On my first day of actual work as an intern, my first task was to respond to Viewermail. Viewermail is the email that viewers and people from the general public can email with story pitches and tips, questions about access to Frontline’s journalism, feedback of Frontline’s programming, interview inquiries, et cetera. In responding to these emails, I represented Frontline. I was expected to respond to people assuming that anything I wrote could be published or shared with the world. The nature of remote work makes it more autonomous and individual than it likely would be in person, however I think the freedom, as you could call it, to work on your own and without constant oversight is also the result of an understanding in the journalism industry that there are ethics and standards that are assumed to be upheld.
Values were immediately established, but I was also thrown right into work and included in staff meetings and conversations, including a Zoom “happy hour” scheduled by the executive producer, Raney Aronson-Rath, where she announced that Frontline has been awarded the Peabody Awards’ Institutional Award (to be announced publicly the following day). Which leads me to another key element of Frontline’s organizational culture — confidentiality. Even on the internship level, much of the information I handle is confidential, and my inclusion in confidential work has already made me feel a sense of community. I think the sense of community at Frontline is also due to the respectful yet often informal communication between people who work here. Those who work at Frontline most commonly communicate via Slack, myself included. This method of direct messaging is inherently less formal than email; it’s similar to texting. There are various Slack “channels” you can join as well, which allows you to communicate with different groups of people. My direct supervisor has encouraged me to share work I do outside of Frontline in the general Frontline channel, such as content from the university newspaper I am an editor for. All of the people I have encountered so far genuinely want to know about me and to help me in whatever way they can. Many aspects contribute to the sense of community, but I believe the most prominent reason is because of a shared goal. The prospects for television news documentaries looked grim when Frontline was first created. Entertainment value and profit became more valued and continue to threaten the livelihood of truth-seeking news networks today. Because of the type of industry — public media — as well as the point in history when Frontline was founded, all at Frontline appear to function with the common goal in mind to serve the community by telling factual, credible and engaging stories, regardless of how controversial they may be. This means that those in leadership positions must demand excellence but also continue to push this common goal forward.