Archive for May 5th, 2014

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I like the way the Berkshire Eagle has undertaken the challenges of unbolting its newsroom from print processes and thinking.

The Eagle is one of four pilot newsrooms for Digital First Media’s Project Unbolt. In a series of seven blog posts starting here, I will present the Eagle’s “Unbolt Master Plan,” with my comments and advice for other newsrooms undertaking the challenges and opportunities of Project Unbolt.

In the preamble of the Unbolt Master Plan, Kevin Moran, Vice President of News for New England Newspapers, explained the process:

In February 2014, The Eagle’s newsroom broke into committees to develop our Unbolt Master Plan. Our Master Plan committees tackled each of the Unbolt pillars. From there, each committee deconstructed each pillar and reconstructed that facet to fit into a reincarnated Unbolted Eagle newsroom. The plan that follows was coalesced on March 8, and it continues to be a work in progress and a living document. We had nearly 100 percent newsroom participation.

A master plan by itself achieves nothing. In fact, an 18-page master plan risks being loaded with bull’s-eyes for staff members to criticize, mock and eventually to note the goals you failed to achieve. But here’s why I like the Eagle’s master plan and am optimistic that it will drive the newsroom’s transformation:

  • Kevin quickly made this a project for the full newsroom staff by forming committees to plan the Eagle’s work. By dividing up the work and the responsibility, the Eagle quickly involved the full staff in the unbolting work and got the staff invested in finding solutions and achieving the transformation.
  • The Eagle organized the staff’s committees along the six primary pillars of transformation we address in the project: news coverage and storytelling; planning and management; mobile; standards; engagement; processes and workflow. Each committee addressed one of the six pillars, ensuring that the newsroom wouldn’t get bogged down in one particularly challenging area or overlook one. (The next six posts in this series will address the Eagle’s efforts in each of these pillars.)
  • In each of the six areas, the Eagle committees set broad objectives and specific goals to help move the newsroom toward the objectives.
  • For each of the goals, the committees spelled out the time frame for achieving the goal. Journalists work well on deadlines, and the plans for achieving these goals appear to me to be ambitious but realistic.
  • The Eagle quickly moved from planning to execution. An excellent master plan could actually be an obstacle to transformation if you spent three months working on it, as you easily could. Action is more important than planning when it comes to transformation because planning by itself achieves nothing. But the Eagle did its planning quickly and moved on to action. So the plan gives the action direction and purpose.

I’ll present and analyze the Eagle’s plan in the next six posts in this series, one for each of the pillars.

Though I haven’t written about Project Unbolt for a while, the Eagle and other DFM newsrooms have been actively working on their transformations, as this master plan illustrates.

I spent most of six weeks visiting the New Haven Register, working most closely with that newsroom, and will blog more about its work in the coming weeks. I’ll also blog about the unbolting efforts of the other two pilot newsrooms, the El Paso Times and the News-Herald in Willoughby, Ohio.

I’ll also blog (and/or publish guest posts from colleagues) about the work of other Digital First newsrooms that weren’t selected as pilot projects but that didn’t wait for reports from the pilot newsrooms to start their own unbolting.

My blogging about Project Unbolt has been stalled by a combination of my work on that project, some other travel, work on the annual DFMies and the distractions of the Thunderdome demise. But we’ve wrapped up the DFMies and compiling the lessons and achievements of Project Unbolt will be the focus of my remaining time with Digital First between now and July 1, when I leave the company.

Other posts on the Eagle’s master plan

Berkshire Eagle’s plan to unbolt coverage and storytelling

How the Berkshire Eagle is unbolting planning and management from print culture

Berkshire Eagle plans for mobile success

How the Berkshire Eagle plans to update and uphold standards

The Berkshire Eagle’s plan for stronger engagement

The Berkshire Eagle unbolts from its processes and workflow from print

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