I can think of few jobs as exciting or as important (to me) as being editor of a newspaper. I was so delighted to get the job as editor of The Gazette that it seems weird to give it up. Voluntarily, even.
My wife, Mimi, knows how much I loved being editor. My colleague Mary Sharp, The Gazette’s longtime Iowa Editor, knows what the title means to a career journalist. I had nearly identical conversations recently with each of them. “But that’s what you came here to do,” each of them told me, in nearly identical words, in separate conversations about the fact that I would be relinquishing that title.
No, I responded. I didn’t come here to edit the Gazette. I came here to help transform this organization and the newspaper business. I can do that better by leaving behind the entrenched titles, structures and thinking of a business that I love. So now I take on a new job and a new title: Information Content Conductor.
As I have reported before in this blog, Gazette Communications is splitting content creation from the making of products. Lyle Muller, the new Gazette editor, and I will explain this change further in the coming weeks in our columns and blogs.
With Mary’s assistance, I will lead an organization that will seek new ways to develop content that is richer, deeper and more meaningful than is allowed by the limitations of our products. Lyle and other colleagues will work to continue serving our community with excellent products using content from my organization and others.
We will share details as we fill positions in both of these new organizations and finish realigning our company in the coming weeks.
But let me tell you this much about our plans: My new title sounds odd at first (yes, to this old editor, too), but each word tells you something about what we are doing:
Information. We will continue providing factual, independent news and information for the community. While the tasks, presentation and means of delivery will change, integrity and truth will remain the core of everything we do.
Content. The kind of content we provided in the newspaper was pretty simple when I started my journalism career in 1971: stories, columns, editorials, lists and photographs. Graphics became a big deal in the 1980s. The future of content is far more diverse: all that as well as databases, videos, audio, slideshows, text messages, blogs, tweets, interactive multimedia, comments, questions, live chats, interactive maps and more that we can’t yet imagine.
Conductor. As much as I have loved the title editor, it doesn’t describe what I will be doing. Maybe the title will change someday, because I know the work will change as this organization and my job evolve. But for now, conductor seems the most accurate term. As a musical conductor does, I will be orchestrating the work of creative people. As a railroad conductor does, I will interact with the public to provide an orderly, satisfying experience. As an electrical conductor does, I need to carry energy in the staff and the community.
I wish that we were launching this new venture in a thriving economy with a larger staff. But the economic challenges that forced us to reduce our staff this week underscore the necessity of transformation.