“A man gotta have a code.”
Omar Little | Season 4, Episode 7

♦ ♦ ♦

Never mind that The Wire is more than 10 years old. With time, David Simon’s pièce de résistance has become a mirror of life — past, present, and future.

A few of the people in my inner circle are journalists. Yes, we talk shop, compare notes, one-up each other with tales from the foxhole. What we’ve learned is that no matter where you are, the newsroom doesn’t change.

A recent deckin’ session with some of these people led to a compilation of traits that every newsroom has in abundance: those who manage from afar, those who watch the work get done, and those who get the work done. (The latter is the lifeblood.)

If you’ve been in a newsroom, you know the characters:

Glynn-Turman-60x90THE MAYOR
In a fiefdom, it’s good to be king. Keep the underlings’ noses to the grindstone, toss a few shekels to the peasants, all is well, my lord. The land-grab is going swimmingly, sir. You now have control over all the hills and dells from here to there. … “But emperor, thou hast no clothes!” Nonsense — I can conference-jargon with anyone. Indeed, just the other day, I spoke to the towel boy; told him to pick up my newest golden parachute from the seamstress. Now, off with your head!

Frankie-Faison-60x90THE ACTING COMMISSIONER
He is the one looking to climb the ladder. He has all the answers (and yet, cannot comprehend the questions). He professes to be “one of the guys” because, once upon a time, he was in your shoes. Well, not exactly your shoes — but he can empathize with a worker bee because … uh, he read about those people in an MBA class. Or was it on a PowerPoint slide at a nondescript conference? So what is it you do, exactly? Whatever, gotta go; time to (un)knowingly nod through another meeting.

John-Doman-60x90THE DEPUTY COMMISSIONER FOR OPERATIONS
He is the one who, unfortunately, has to mingle with the worker bees. He has to carry out the boss’s mandates because … well, the boss said so. Say what, there is a more productive way to do something? “Yes.” Can our Sales team put a dollar against it? “No.” Then move on and do as I say; I saw Big Corporate Website doing this and we should, too. (And communication – you know, discussion and understanding? That is found between “bloviate” and “discourse” in the dictionary.)

Lance-Reddick-60x90THE LIEUTENANT
Ah, middle management — the I-don’t-care-how-just-get-it-done guy. At the end of the shift, it’s his responsibility that the sausage has been made. No one cares how the sausage gets made, they just want to graze at the trough of excess. So what if you’re ill-equipped to make ends meet. Get creative. Spend more time on the nuts and bolts (regardless if there are too many nuts and not enough bolts). Still, this is the guy who would rather take a bullet than be the commish’s lackey.

The-Wire-Detectives-sharp

THE DETECTIVES

These are the guys in the trenches. They come to work, swing the hammer — large rocks into small rocks. Every. Day. The seasons change, next year becomes last year, and the work never changes. And why should it? These guys make it happen! They make chicken salad out of chicken sh*t, as the boys say. They sift through the garbage; find nuggets of goodness for others’ enjoyment. They are the worker bees that the acting commish regales with tales of his glory days in a feeble attempt to connect. #fail

Sadly, too often this scenario plays out in the everyday workplace. I used to call it “forgetting where you came from,” but then the game changed. Understand, these humps have not forgotten – because they were never there. It is discouraging to see management types try to forge a three-, five- or 10-year plan when they have no idea what the resources can provide toward the goal. They are disconnected from the day-to-day. They are disconnected from the talents of those in the trenches.

Across business today there are people who are eager to help take the content to a level that creates truly engaging products. These people are called Editorial. Not products. Not social. Not marketing. … All of that — products, social, and marketing — comes after the content. All of those aspects are important — but in the 1b kind of way, since you will not have a socially engaging product to market without the content.