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American Press Institute logoI get a sense of déjà vu in the American Press Institute’s release this morning of a pair of reports on innovation in news organizations.

An important event in my career was the 2006 release of API’s report Newspaper Next: A Blueprint for Transformation, followed by my efforts to promote and teach the principles of the report to executives and organizations in the newspaper industry. As I noted five years later, and as API’s report today acknowledges, N2 fall far short of transforming the newspaper industry. (We’ll never know if the approach outlined in the report would have helped transform a newspaper company or the whole organization. The industry treated it as a buffet, tasting a few dishes it offered, when it was really offering a new diet. I know of no news organization that came close to attempting the transformation that N2 advocated.)

API’s latest effort to guide innovation in the news industry is a pair of reports released this morning, A culture-based strategy for creating innovation in news organizations by Jeff Sonderman and Tom Rosenstiel, and The best practices for innovation within news organizations by Craig Silverman.

I recommend both reports as important reading for leaders in news operations seeking to be more successful at innovation, especially if organizational culture is an issue for you. But I guess I’m jaded enough that I won’t predict a lot of cultural change as a result of the reports. N2 offered broader, deeper and more specific advice for changing a company. But maybe almost a decade later, some companies will be better able to use the advice API is offering today on workplace culture.

Adding to the N2 echoes of these reports are four mentions of Clayton Christensen in the Silverman report. The Sonderman/Rosenstiel report mentions API’s partnership with Christensen for Newspaper Next, which made heavy use of his principles of disruptive innovation. Between them, today’s reports make 10 mentions of some form of the word disrupt. I’m not sure what to make of this. Christensen’s theories apply to the news business as strongly now as they did in 2006, but I’ll be surprised if newspaper companies ever start operating by them. (The API reports do not share N2’s newspaper focus, studying digital startups as well as legacy media companies.)

I suspect the advice in the API reports might be more effective with news startups, building innovative structures and processes from scratch, rather than in established companies trying to overcome existing cultural problems without screwing up declining products that produce their revenue. Continue Reading »

New York Times story on John Nash's deathI saw a bit of sexism on display by media and Twitter users in noting the deaths of John and Alicia Nash, the couple whose lives were portrayed in the movie “A Beautiful Mind.”

The Nashes died in an accident Saturday while riding in a taxi on the New Jersey Turnpike.

Two people died in the crash. Admittedly, one of them was a Nobel Prize winner whose mind was immortalized by Hollywood as “beautiful.” But the other passenger killed in the crash, was also a powerful character in the same movie, her portrayal by Jennifer Connelly winning an Oscar. But Alicia got no mention in the headline, tweet or lead of the New York Times:

As you can see from the screenshot above, Alicia Nash was in the photo the Times used and did get a mention in the second paragraph.

Clearly John Nash was the more famous half of the couple. He did have the “Beautiful Mind,” and his death was absolutely noteworthy. But isn’t an elderly couple dying together newsworthy in itself? Don’t lots of couples hope they will die together, rather than leaving one to mourn the other? Her death is an important part of this story.

And, oh, by the way, she was an outstanding and memorable character, too, in that movie. Wouldn’t her death, if she had died alone, have been worthy of a New York Times obituary (even with the gender imbalance of Times obits), headline and tweet? If she were the brilliant mathematician and Russell Crowe had won an Oscar for portraying her husband (he was nominated for an Oscar for “A Beautiful Mind”), I think we can be pretty sure they would have shared mentions in the headlines and tweets.

And if you want to defend leaving her out, don’t use Twitter’s character count or the tighter counts of headlines as an excuse. Alicia is six characters, wife is four. Add a comma or an ampersand to either of those words and you can add an important newsworthy person and element to your tweet or headline for less than 10 characters. I’d like to hear a defense if you have one, but not that one.

While I single out the Times because it’s the most prominent newspaper, it was not alone in its focus on a single death from the crash:

Note that the New York Post uses a photo of Russell Crowe, but not Alicia Nash.

These media tweets didn’t mention Alicia Nash, but the accompanying headlines did:

This media tweet didn’t mention Alicia, but the cutline with the photograph did:

To be fair, some media outlets and journalists did mention Alicia Nash in their tweets about the crash, rarely by name:

Update: Here’s a tweet, called to my attention in a comment, that gave Alicia her due:

I’ll be inviting response from New York Times editors and will add it if they send anything. If you wrote one of the tweets above and would like to respond, I invite your feedback in the comments or on Twitter (I’ll add your tweet to the post if you mention me).

But let’s close with a little recognition for Alicia Nash, who died with her husband, John, in a crash Saturday:

Update: Tom McKay tweeted at me that he mentioned Alicia Nash in his headline.

An editor at a mid-sized newsroom asked me some questions about digital productivity expectations for reporters:

We are banging our heads against the wall about this: How much content should reporters be required to write each day online? … Some feel they produce way more than others. So how do you even the playing field?

My quick answers:

  1. Everything any reporter produces should be published first online.
  2. Content is not all equal. You don’t measure reporters’ productivity or performance by counting widgets or credits.
  3. Expectations for reporters vary by beat and over time. Reporters should meet the expectations of their jobs.
  4. Running a newsroom isn’t like parenting. Your expectations for different reporters vary according to beat, experience, skill, news flow and a variety of other factors. You don’t even the playing field and I have little patience with whining about reasonable facts of life.

I’ll elaborate on those points in order: Continue Reading »

Digital First Media logoAnything I have to say about Digital First Media today is speculation or observation but I will speculate and observe.

(I’ll explain in some detail at the end of this post what I used to know about DFM operations and strategy, and what I don’t know now.)

A tough sell

My first observation: Selling this scattered company and its diverse properties has probably been much more difficult than anyone thought last year when executives decided to pursue a sale. My first knowledge of plans to sell the company was that they would likely sell it in pieces. I think the difficulty of that job led to an effort to sell it in one piece, as Ken Doctor reported last year. That led to a pending $400 million purchase by Apollo Global Management. Ken’s speculation – more informed than mine, but probably not coming from DFM sources – is that the deal fell through over price.

I think DFM CEO John Paton, Chief Operating Officer Steve Rossi (who will become CEO take over the company’s reins in July) and whoever is making decisions for Alden Global Capital, the hedge fund that owns DFM, have decided that some individual parts of the company will attract higher value separately. I think they’ve decided the higher values of some individual pieces will be worth the trouble of operating and eventually selling or shutting down the properties that would be more difficult to sell, or possibly operating a reduced company after selling the most attractive parts.
Continue Reading »

LSUreveilledotcom logoI don’t know whether this is a measure of how often I change jobs or how long I’ve been blogging, but this is the fourth new job I’ve announced on this blog that’s less than seven years old. But it’s the first new job that doesn’t involve changing employers.

reveille logoI start work right away as Director of Student Media for LSU. When I came here almost a year ago, I was accepting a one-year job as Lamar Family Visiting Scholar. But Dean Jerry Ceppos and I were always interested in exploring long-term opportunities. This one looks like an excellent fit. Thanks to Jerry for another excellent opportunity, and to the search committee and faculty who aided in this decision.

KLSU logoStudent media face many of the same challenges I’ve helped professional media address for the last decade and more in various positions: Developing new revenue streams; developing new products; finding, adjusting and maintaining the right mix of digital and legacy media. And it involves additional challenges I’ve enjoyed in the past year: Teaching and preparing students for media careers.

legacy logoI think and hope that I am well-prepared for these challenges. But I expect to learn a lot more about LSU’s Student Media operations in the next few weeks before the retirement of my friend and predecessor and the incumbent until he leaves, Bob Ritter. And maybe I’ll learn more by phone, email or over lunch after he retires. I also expect to learn a lot from the professional staff of student media and from the student leaders.

Tiger TV logoI come into the job with student media experience going back to 1972, when I wrote my first stories for the Daily Skiff, student newspaper at TCU, when I was a freshman. I later became editor of the Skiff for the spring semesters of 1975 (yes, 40 years ago) and 1976, and also worked briefly for KTCU, the student radio station, and Image, the student magazine. All three products continue today, along with several more. More recently, I have consulted with TCU and several other university student media operations as they seek to transform for the digital age, the very challenges LSU student media face. I’ve been a speaker at seminars for student media leaders hosted by Iowa State University and the University of Georgia, as well as conferences of the College Media Advisers/Associated Collegiate Press and Western Association of University Publication Managers. And I think my extensive experience in professional journalism as well as my teaching experience will be valuable in this job.

Gumbo logoFor all that experience, I’m still learning, and I’m interested in learning from you. If you’ve been involved in student media, what have you learned from your successes and mistakes? How do you think someone in my position should guide student media through the changing media landscape? What are some goals we should pursue, some traps we should avoid?

My blog posts on student media

I’ll be blogging a lot about student media in the coming months and years. Here are some things I’ve already written on the topic:

Student media need to pursue a digital-first approach

Students already consume news digital-first; student media should follow suit

Digital-first journalism workshops for TCU student media

Digital-first workshops for student media at the University of Texas-Arlington

My keynote for student media leaders: You will shape journalism’s future

Posts on other new jobs

Pursuing a new opportunity in Washington

Another extraordinary opportunity: this time Journal Register Co.

My next adventure: teaching at LSU

Michelle Rogers

Michelle Rogers

I asked Michelle Rogers to share some links that show the work of the Redding Record Searchlight under the Four Platform Newsroom.

Michelle Rogers was a colleague of mine at Digital First Media, and I’m pleased she has found a new home as Content Editor at the Record Searchlight. In a companion post, her editor, Silas Lyons, answers some questions about the Four Platform Newsroom. Here are the links Michelle shared with me:

Shaping Our Future portal

Facebook group for Shaping our Future

Get Out portal

Facebook group for Get Out

Buttry comment: Facebook groups are great places for engagement about topics or within niches. I belong to several Facebook groups that include some of my most meaningful discussions on Facebook. For an excellent example of a newsroom using a Facebook group to improve its journalism and engagement, read about ProPublica’s Patient Harm group. Back to Michelle and her links: Continue Reading »

Silas Lyons

Silas Lyons

This guest post from Silas Lyons, editor of the Redding Record Searchlight in California, continues my discussion of the Four Platform Newsroom program at Journal Media Group. I blogged Wednesday about the Digital Leads report that reviewed the newsroom transformation efforts of the former E.W. Scripps Co. newsrooms. Friday I blogged the answers of three JMG editors to some questions I asked about the program.

Today I have two responses from Redding, Calif. Lyons sent his answers to my question after I published Friday’s post. Michelle Rogers, a former colleague of mine at Digital First Media, is Content Editor at the Record Searchlight and sent me links showing some of the Redding newsroom’s work.

I asked: “How did you choose and develop your franchise topics?”

Lyons: We learned the most from this part of the process. The smartest thing we did early on was to listen to Knight Digital’s advice to be very ambitious about outreach to people in our community who truly represented the personas – they were between 25 and 50 years old, professional, had kids or a mortgage or both. For a small newsroom (under 20 people including me) and a smaller Four Platform team (8), we put a huge effort into those interviews, netting close to 40 people and developing a very solid basis of data.

While not professional market research, it was better in some ways because the responses were very real to the people developing the plan. They didn’t just ask which topics would interest the personas, but where the interview subjects get that kind of information now, what they feel is missing, what kinds of devices they use to access different types of news and information, what kind of real-life situation they’re in when they’re using those devices. Continue Reading »

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