This post continues a series on advice for new top editors in Digital First Media newsrooms.
Earlier this month I finished a chore that was a lot of work and worth every minute: Planning and emceeing a program to recognize the best work of 2012 by Digital First Media journalists.
Kudos to CEO John Paton and Editor in Chief Jim Brady for spending the money to give cash prizes and plaques to the DFMie winners and for bringing them from across the country to Denver for the awards program.
If you’re a local DFM editor (or an editor in another company), you may not have the money to do an awards program at the newsroom level, but at least you won’t have travel costs. And you should try to put a local recognition program into your budget. All the DFM senior publishers were at the DFMies and commented on what a great program it was. Maybe they’ll fight to get some local recognition in your budget. But they won’t do that unless you ask. One of my rules of journalism and life is “never say no for someone else.” So don’t say no for your publisher. Ask for a recognition program for your newsroom.
And if the publisher says no, recognize excellence in a way that’s cheap or free.
We do the DFMies monthly and annually to recognize the best work companywide with cash awards. While the cash is important, and adds meaning to the recognition, I believe the recognition is more important than the cash. If you can’t get cash for the awards, get the newsroom involved in brainstorming another meaningful way to recognize excellence: Maybe a traveling trophy (it could be serious or silly) that sits on the winner’s desk for a month or a quarter until the next winner is chosen. Maybe lunch with the editor. Maybe a paid day off. (more…)
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I’m helping my Digital First colleagues recruit for several newsroom leadership positions.
I also know that hundreds of journalists — including, I suspect, some strong leaders — have recently lost their jobs with Patch, Gannett and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Other good journalists are still looking for work after earlier cutbacks elsewhere. Still others fear for their companies’ future and are looking for a better company to work for.
So here’s my offer to journalists who think they have what it takes to lead a Digital First newsroom (including Digital First colleagues who think they are ready to lead a newsroom or a larger newsroom): Make your pitch. (more…)
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Posted in Advice for new Digital First editors, leadership, tagged Andy Stettler, Ann Cornell, Chris Roberts, Facebook, Jill Geisler, John Berry, John Paton, leadership, listening, Matt Osbourne, Michelle Karas, Robert Sterling, Twitter on April 30, 2013 |
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This post starts a series for new top editors in Digital First Media newsrooms. Some of the advice might be good for veteran editors, too, and for editors in other companies.
Listening should be one of an editor’s most important skills and priorities.
Editors needed to be good listeners when I started in the news business more than 40 years ago, when we were still melting lead to set type. Listening was essential when I first became editor of the Minot Daily News in 1992, when the digital revolution for newsrooms was just around the next bend. And it was even more important when I became editor of the Cedar Rapids Gazette in 2008, as social media was causing a second (or third; I think I’m losing track) digital revolution for newsrooms. It still remains one of an editor’s most important jobs, but we have some great listening tools that weren’t available before.
A good editor listens to the staff and to the community. You don’t necessarily follow all the advice you hear or act on all the complaints you hear (or bask in the praise), but you need to hear what the community and the staff are saying. You need to know what your staff thinks about your leadership and your decisions. You need to know what the community thinks of your content. You need to know what your staff is proud of and embarrassed of and concerned about. You need to know what your community is laughing at and angry about.
You don’t just need to know what the community is saying about you and your news products, though. You need to know what people are saying about the news and community affairs. Has a story that’s hot in the coffee shops and Facebook discussions escaped your staff’s notice because it doesn’t fit in your beat structure (or because someone is not covering a beat well)? Is your community confused about an issue you are reporting or should be reporting? Has the community grown tired of an issue? You should know. (more…)
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It was déjà vu all over again, as Yogi Berra would say, when I saw that Clayton Christensen was offering the news business advice on dealing with disruptive innovation.
I look back with a mix of pride, gratitude and anger on my experience with Christensen’s partnership with the American Press Institute in the Newspaper Next project. We offered the newspaper business a strategy and process for changing our business model to adapt to the digital earthquake that was destroying our foundations.
If someone had embraced and fully pursued that approach, instead of merely dabbling with it, I think that company would be dramatically better off today than the rest of the news business (it would be so different that we certainly wouldn’t call it a newspaper company, even if it still produced newspapers). I could be wrong, but I’d like that company’s chances. And it could hardly be worse off than its peers are.
And, of course, we’re such a copycat industry that other companies would have followed that company and they would be better off as well. Instead, the newspaper industry copied each other in acting timidly and protectively.
We published the first N2 report in September 2006. That year newspaper ad revenues would decline by 1.7 percent from 2005′s peak level of $47 billion
million. In my lifetime, newspapers’ print ad revenues had fallen in only seven years, according to Newspaper Association of America data. Only two of those declines were more than 3 percent, none larger than 9 percent. On the other hand, 10 times during my life, we saw double-digit growth in ad revenues.
The newspaper business was used to the gravy train and it wasn’t ready to change. (more…)
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Posted in Digital First Media, tagged John Paton on September 5, 2012 |
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I don’t pretend to understand corporate finance. So I won’t have a lot to say about today’s announcement that Journal Register Company filed for Chapter 11 and is for sale.
Here’s what I know: JRC is making great strides in developing a healthy new business model for the digital marketplace. (So are Digital First Media and MediaNews Group, which are all intertwined but not identical; it’s just JRC that is involved in today’s filing). I don’t expect the financial measures announced today to change that beyond giving us the ability to renegotiate some debts, pensions and leases.
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Posted in community engagement, Digital First Media, tagged Bob Morris, community engagement, Diane Hoffman, Ed Condra, Eileen Faust, John Paton, Nancy March, Pottstown Mercury on July 20, 2012 |
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Visitors use computers available for public use at the Mercury’s new Community Media Lab.
I was a guest speaker today at a ceremony in Pottstown, Pa., to celebrate the opening of the Community Media Lab of the Mercury, a Digital First news operation.
The celebration was a joint opening with the new Pottstown Visitors Center across the street in the Merc’s original building.
I have published a couple photos here, but others are in my DFM Engagement Tumblr started today. I also Storified tweets and photos about the opening celebration.
Here are my prepared remarks:
Perhaps you’ve heard that newspapers are in trouble, or even that they are dying.
I’m here to tell you today that the Mercury and Digital First Media have a bright future. The changes reflected in the Mercury’s new Community Media Lab are part of a transformation of our business that is delivering results and that will ensure a continuing role in Pottstown and the surrounding communities for the Merc and our journalists.
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Just a quick post to call your attention to John Paton’s blunt but accurate appraisal of the Advance Publications’ cutbacks in staff and print frequency.
As has been extensively chronicled (including by me), Advance cut the staff of the New Orleans Times-Picayune and cut the newspaper back from daily publication to three times a week.
John acknowledges that Advance handled the whole move poorly, chewing up a lot of goodwill. But, he says, “I support them because their industry is my industry and it will not survive without dramatic, difficult and bloody change.”
If you don’t think the news business is in a fight for survival, read Rick Edmonds’ piece on how the Washington Post, one of journalism’s most iconic organizations, is faring. Read how much value newspapers’ print advertising has lost in the past six years.
I think and hope John (my boss; yeah, this looks like sucking up, but he’s right) is making the right moves to help Digital First Media and the news business find the path to a prosperous future. I hope Advance’s moves work successfully. And I hope the Post finds its path to success.
Yesterday’s news produced and delivered at high cost in print is not a business model that will survive.
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This is the prepared text for my June 2 keynote speech to the Pennsylvania Press Conference. I ad-libbed a bit, so this isn’t exactly what I said.
I’m used to leading 90-minute workshops at conferences like this. When Becky Bennett told me I would have only 15 minutes for my keynote address, my first thought was that I wouldn’t have much time to tell you about Digital First journalism and my company’s vision for the future of our profession. But we are, after all, meeting in Gettysburg, and I recall a tradition here of getting to the point quickly and saying something memorable without wasting words. Besides which, I’m better known now for my tweets than for all the long newspaper stories, editor’s columns, blog posts or workshop handouts I’ve ever written. So I want to steal an approach from my boss (always a good idea) and talk to you in a series of 10 tweets (with a little elaboration that might go over 140 characters, but definitely not over 15 minutes).
Before I start the tweets, I’ll say that these are focused on the journalism rather than the business because this is an audience of journalists. But we need to be as forward-looking in our business approach as we are in our coverage of the news. I am encouraged by the progress we’re making at Digital First Media in developing a new business model and finding new revenue streams, and you can read more about that on my blog and John Paton’s (he’s the boss who gave a speech to NAA that was built around tweets). But here I’m focusing on the future of journalism.
Much as you and I might love the feel of a newspaper in our hands and the smell of ink, and even though our craft uses a machine so precious it was mentioned in the Bill of Rights, quality journalism has no inherent connection to print. Liars Janet Cooke, Jayson Blair and Jack Kelley all worked in print and every crappy supermarket tabloid is a newspaper. The things that make us proud of our profession can make us proud of our digital journalism: commitment to getting the facts right, dedication to seeking and reporting the truth, high ethical standards, holding the powerful — and ourselves — accountable, serving the watchdog role with honor. (more…)
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The gatekeeper days of journalism were fun. But they’re over. And they weren’t as good as we remember them.
In a Facebook discussion today, Arkansas State journalism professor Jack Zibluk wrote, “By abandoning the gatekeeper role, I believe you are abandoning the profession.”
I replied: “Jack, no one abandoned the gatekeeper role. It became irrelevant when the fences blew away.”
Jack asked me to elaborate:
If journalism and journalists are no longer gatekeepers, then what ARE we? Nobody I know of has made a cohesive explanation of what our role is any more in society.
I initially begged off, saying I might blog about gatekeepers in a week or two. But another gatekeeper discussion on Jack’s Facebook wall and an exchange of private Facebook messages prompted me to blog now.
I used to be a gatekeeper, the person who decided which of the many potential stories my reporters at the Des Moines Register and Kansas City Star and Times could do would become news back in the 1980s and early 1990s. As editor of the Minot Daily News, I had the final say on every news story for our North Dakota town (and let’s be honest: beyond breaking news, a newspaper editor largely is the gatekeeper for local TV stations, too). Keeping the gate was a serious responsibility: We got to decide what was news and what wasn’t, what was front-page news, what was an inside brief and what wasn’t worth our readers’ time at all. We had to decide when a story was vetted and verified enough to make it through the gate. (more…)
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