Veteran TV news leader to guide training program for news managers
- – Shannon Hammel named executive director of Carole Kneeland Project
- – Hammel brings TV management and research experience, and a special connection to the non-profit
January 10th, 2023
Austin, TX – Shannon Hammel knows the challenges faced by America’s newsrooms having served key roles at TV stations in Dallas, Denver and other markets. She will call on that experience as she takes over this month as executive director of The Carole Kneeland Project.
Aside from television management experience, Hammel brings marketing and research expertise, and a special connection to the non-profit that has trained more than 750 current and aspiring news directors across the country. She is one of the program’s fellows.
“The Kneeland Project training changed how I managed teams and how I led in the newsroom. To this day, I share lessons from Kneeland in my personal and professional life,” said Hammel. “I’m thrilled to be able to give back to an organization that truly changed my life.”
The Carole Kneeland Project – named after a legendary Austin, Texas news director who exemplified ethical leadership and responsible journalism – marks its 25th anniversary this year. In selecting Hammel, the Kneeland Project Board of Directors says it wanted a leader to help launch the organization into its next 25 years.
“We searched for a director who would share our passion for the Kneeland Project and who will help us instill in local TV news leaders the values, ethics, and fundamentals that Carole taught all of us,” said Board President Michael Fabac. “We are delighted to have found that director in Shannon and her record of leadership, communication, and execution.”
Hammel will manage day-to-day operations, including organizing conferences and fundraising efforts to ensure a bright future for the non-profit. Stacy Baum, who served as executive director for nearly 20 years, resigned last October to focus full-time as vice president of Marketing & Community Engagement at Catholic Charities of Denver.
After graduating from DePauw University, Hammel produced newscasts and managed newsrooms at WILX in Lansing, Michigan, then WCMH in Columbus, Ohio. She later moved to KXAS in Dallas-Fort Worth where she held key roles such as executive producer and managing editor. Hammel launched an investigative team that won multiple National Edward R. Murrow awards and a National Emmy.
In 2019, Hammel pivoted to research and now oversees research at KDVR & KWGN in Denver. Hammel lives in Broomfield, Colorado, with her husband and two sons.
About The Kneeland Project
For 24 years, The Kneeland Project has educated more than 750 news leaders in 143 markets across all fifty states, providing real-world, hands-on leadership training to the people on the front lines of local news. Kneeland changes lives and improves the quality of local newsgathering, one journalist at a time. Today, there are Kneeland Fellows working as news executives in 100% of the top 25 and 92% of the top 100 media markets.
Carole Kneeland revolutionized the way stories were told and newsrooms were led. The lessons she taught are timeless. Be fair, accurate, ethical and balanced. She did the right thing every day and it showed. Responsive to the evolving and ever-changing needs of journalists, The Kneeland Project weaves Carole’s critical and enduring lessons into today’s multi-platform, 24/7 local newsroom.
YOU CAN’T RUN FROM CHANGE
Joan Barrett, Kneeland Board Member and Faculty, is President & General Manager at WCNC Charlotte. In this article, Joan encourages news executives to remember one of the most critical lessons Carole taught: there’s no time like the present to embrace change.
Change. There’s been plenty of that going around these days, and it’s no secret that our business is in the throes of change from top to bottom, inside and out. As leaders, we know that it’s not only part of our job to manage change, it’s also our job to actually initiate change. Of course, this doesn’t mean we look to make a change, just for the sake of it. Instead, it’s our responsibility to find ways to make changes that increase morale and generate more business.
We’ve all heard stories about companies that refused to change. At one time, the Swiss dominated the watch industry. As the story goes, when they were approached with the idea of utilizing new chip technology, they rejected it saying, “but that isn’t how a real watch is made!” We all know how that story ends: the Swiss lost share and the Japanese watch industry was born.
As news leaders, we have to be careful not to become Swiss watchmakers. It’s also important that we continue to challenge our employees to look for new ways to innovate. One of my favorite stories is about a group of researchers who put five monkeys in a habitat. There was a banana hanging at the top of a small staircase. Whenever the monkeys approached the banana, they were sprayed with cold water. It didn’t take long for the monkeys to stop trying for the banana. When a new monkey was placed in the habitat – and one of the original four removed – the new monkey would try for the yellow treat. The other monkeys would grab him, not letting him even try to reach the banana. The researchers substituted all the monkeys one-by-one, until all five of the original monkeys were gone. None of the new monkeys would try for the banana. They didn’t know why – they just knew, “that’s the way we do it around here – No one tries for the banana.”
Sometimes the best ideas are right in front of us. We have to be willing to try for them, and we have to encourage our employees to take the risk as well. I believe that journalism is still one of the most exciting industries in the world and we will figure out a way to come out of this stronger. We simply need to be willing to embrace change and, once in a while, take a few minutes to run up the stairs to grab a banana!
BE BETTER TODAY THAN YESTERDAY
Blaise Labbe, Former Kneeland Board Member and a 2002 Kneeland Fellow, is Group News Director for Sinclair Broadcasting in San Antonio. In this article, Blaise encourages new news executives to “be better today than yesterday” – one of Carole’s driving mottos.
A month after I started as news director at KCTV in Kansas City, a photojournalist asked me if I realized what I had gotten myself into. I explained to him I knew there were going to be issues when I joined the team, but that I was still feeling confident. He laughed and said, “You thought you were coming to fight a two alarm fire, but now you now realize it is a five alarm.”
I smiled… because I knew things wouldn’t change overnight.
Carole Kneeland often encouraged her staff to be “better today than yesterday.” I have internalized that saying and encourage you to do the same. New news executives have many challenges. They have to quickly evaluate staff, systems, budgets, ratings, research, and become familiar with their new role. It is easy to get distracted and lose focus. It is about keeping the big picture in mind and staying out of the weeds.
- – Set realistic and attainable goals for the newsroom.
- – Align them with a timeline.
- – Celebrate when your goals are reached.
- – Articulate your expectations.
- – Keep your GM in the loop, so that he/she can help you succeed.
Not long ago, that photojournalist returned to my office and said he was pleased with our progress. Our ratings have grown in some areas, and there is definitely a better vibe in our newsroom. We’re better today than we were yesterday, and will be even better tomorrow. Thanks, Carole.
CAROLE’S MOTTO: PUT PEOPLE FIRST
Blaise Labbe, Former Kneeland Board Member, 2002 Kneeland Fellow and Group News Director for Sinclair Broadcasting in San Antonio, shares his thoughts about the future of the industry. Blaise encourages news executives to remember one of the most critical lessons Carole taught: PUT PEOPLE FIRST.
The New Year has arrived and history proves that our economy will likely rebound sometime soon and many industries will be getting back to “normal.” But the new normal for our industry is here to stay, and it’s clear that broadcasting has changed forever.
As we begin the shift in our thought process, I am reminded of one of Carole’s key principles: put people first, and product will follow. Technology, new trends, and trimmed budgets will force us to manage our staffs differently. For us to succeed in this new environment, we must put people first.
This is a time of leadership more than it is a time to manage. Executives must be more involved in the newsroom and with staff. Start now by making yourself accessible so your people can meet with you. Set up a calendar with open dates and times so they can schedule one-on-one time with you.
As the technology continues to evolve, make sure you understand it so that you know what folks are tackling. This will help you and your team create systems to make your newsroom more efficient, more productive, and less mistake-prone. It is incumbent upon you to create an atmosphere in which your staff understands there are standards and expectations that must be met, but allows them time to have fun in the process.
Most importantly, we must believe that our newsrooms are just that: our newsrooms. Doing more with less is only possible when we include everyone on our team. You and your staff will grow because you made inclusion a priority. Your team’s appreciation for success will have new meaning because you all did it together.
Seems like that’s something Carole figured out a long time ago.
CAROLE KNEELAND: A LIFE OF INSPIRATION
A NOTE FROM DAVE MCNEELY TO KNEELAND FRIENDS IN JANUARY 2008
Dave McNeely, lifetime Kneeland board member, author, and long-time political reporter for the Austin American Statesman, was Carole’s husband for the last 15 years of her life. Like many of us who believe that Carole’s spirit, integrity, and values have lived on through The Kneeland Project, Dave believes that the work of our Kneeland Fellows in newsrooms across the country helps keep Carole’s vision alive.
It is very hard to believe that January 26, 2008, marks the tenth anniversary of Carole death.
Knowing her as I do from being her husband the previous 15 years, I can tell you that she would be incredibly flattered and proud in knowing that the spirit of creative, caring management that she had brought to the business of television news has continued to be spread through these efforts.
Carole always felt that the people who were in the trenches in newsroom management were not allowed sufficient training, were given more and more duties to perform without additional help, and had very little in the way of support.
The Kneeland Project that several of her friends and admirers started as she was dying a decade ago followed her wishes in trying to establish training programs aimed at helping those who are up against it every day to realize that they can be even more effective managers through planning, training, and treating people as they would like to be treated.
She would be impressed that so many of them have gone back into their newsrooms with renewed passion and energy, and that so many of you have contributed your hard-earned cash to help make that possible. Carole believed at a gut level in the democratic notion that an informed public can govern itself, and was incredibly committed to doing everything she could to make sure that the best possible information was made available to the public.
Thanks again so much for being a participant in Carole’s dream. I know that she is smiling at the fruit that your efforts have borne.