When Danielle Belton started as HuffPost’s editor-in-chief in April, she stepped into a newsroom that had spent a year in tumult. In addition to the trials of covering and living through the pandemic, the news outlet’s staff had gone through a sale from Verizon Media to BuzzFeed that eventually led to 70 HuffPost employees being laid off. And all the while, the newsroom had been without a leader.
“They went so long without an editor-in-chief. The fact that there was going to be one put into place and that they were going to have their own leader independent of BuzzFeed and BuzzFeed News meant a lot. I felt like the reaction I got was actually more warm than anything else. And one of relief,” Belton said in the latest episode of the Digiday Podcast, which was recorded live during the Digiday Publishing Summit on Sept. 27 in Miami.
Of course, Belton’s appointment alone wouldn’t instantaneously alleviate all stress and anxiety among HuffPost’s staff. That’s why the former editor-in-chief of G/O Media’s The Root sees her role as being the outlet’s “newsroom therapist.” It’s a role she has found herself playing since she started working in journalism and spent time roaming newsrooms where she has worked to check in with other staffers.
“I used to tell my bosses, ‘You guys should just pay me to be the newsroom therapist. I can just talk to everybody all day and listen to their problems and help them figure out how to solve them and help them with their stories. And that’s basically what I’m doing now. I’m the newsroom therapist,” Belton said.
This episode is the final in a four-part series for the Digiday Podcast called “The Modern Newsroom Leader,” featuring editors-in-chief as they navigate new industry challenges including staffers dealing with burnout, unsteady financial businesses and prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion in hiring practices. Previous episodes featured The Cut's Lindsay Peoples Wagner and Vox's Swati Sharma, Houston Chronicle's Maria Reeve and Gawker's Leah Finnegan.