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Posts Tagged ‘curmudgeons’

Discussion of curmudgeons and people struggling with changing newsroom cultures drove my blog to record traffic in April.

My previous record, from December 2011, was just shy of 25,000 page views, but last month I topped 31,000. In previous months when my traffic has been strong, I’ve tried to note the patterns or lessons I could learn from the success. The big drivers of this record were four posts relating to change in newsrooms:

  1. Dear newsroom curmudgeon set traffic records for a single post on my blog: the highest single-day total of page views and the most views in a week or a month. At nearly 8,500 views it is on the verge of becoming the most-read post I’ve ever written, less than a hundred views behind my Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection, published three years ago. The C3 blueprint achieved its traffic by staying popular over time, getting 2,500 views in 2010 after more than 4,500 in 2009. And that was a proposal for a new business model for community news (though no one has actually implemented the model, it received a fair amount of attention). While the curmudgeon proposal was not as broadly useful, I believe it succeeded for at least two reasons: First, it connected with people — curmudgeons and reformers who are tired of curmudgeons — on an emotional level. Second, it offered advice; I wasn’t just scolding curmudgeons; I tried to understand some reasons for their resistance to change and I ended up offering advice. (more…)
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At the risk of repeating myself, don’t let valid obstacles in your newsroom become excuses for your failure to develop as a digital journalist. No one benefits (or hurts) more from your career than you do. So don’t leave your career success or fulfillment in the hands of bosses who are stuck in the past.

I also should note that this prolongs my already-long curmudgeon conversation. This post is prompted by a comment from “FormerStaffer” on my recent lessons-learned post, following up on my “Dear Newsroom Curmudgeon” post. FormerStaffer makes some valid points:

Some curmudgeons are made by their own newsrooms. Lack of decent training is a big issue. If a newsroom worker doesn’t have personal time off the job to learn these new skills (new baby, sick family member, working two jobs, aging parents, or similar problems), is it fair to penalize that worker for the problems in his or her private life?

Newsrooms also give mixed signals. If the paper claims to be web first, but only posts some stories first on the web, what is the message to staffers? If there are no consequences for failing to post on the web, but missing press deadline by 10 minutes produces an angry memo, what message is being sent?

If a staff member trying to learn Twitter asks for guidelines about using Twitter (what to post, what kind of language shouldn’t go in a quote in a tweet, whether tweets should refer to rival news operations, whether out-of-focus photos that are banned from the printed product can be sent with tweets, etc.) then the question shouldn’t be ignored or brushed off — someone should think about writing some guidelines, even if they’re only four or five items on a list.

I will address the issues shortly, but first I want to say this: I will be emailing FormerStaffer to ask whether he or she worked recently in a Digital First Media newsroom. If one of our newsrooms is operating this way, then Jim Brady and I will want to address these issues directly with the editors leading that newsroom. I’ll also offer to email FormerStaffer’s former editors if he or she doesn’t work in our company. Editors who operate like this need to be called out on their backward behavior. But now, I want to address FormerStaffer directly: (more…)

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Friday’s letter to newsroom curmudgeons resulted in my busiest day ever on this blog, 4,882 views, smashing my previous record by 58 percent. After less than 72 hours online, the post is already my fourth most-viewed post in three-plus years blogging here. With more than 80 comments, I presume it already is my most-discussed post, though I should note that probably a third or more of those are me responding to comments.

Few things I have written have received as much praise or as much criticism (the two often go together), certainly not in their first day or two after publication. I try to make a common theme of this blog discussions of digital journalism and lessons we can learn about what works and what doesn’t. This post worked and failed in notable ways, so I should try to learn (or relearn) something from the experience:

Pronouns matter. I made some of the same points about curmudgeons in a post last fall. That post answered a question from someone asking how to “convert” curmudgeons to using Twitter. So I responded in the third person, essentially discussing curmudgeons behind their backs as him and her. That post got some attention, one of my top 40 in page views, but it only got half as much traffic as Friday’s post got on its first day. It made a difference, I’m sure, to address my post to curmudgeons, inviting people to email the link to a curmudgeon or to print it out for one to read. In another post a couple years ago, I wrote in the first person about how I redirected and rejuvenated my career. It offered sincere advice to others, and advice that stems from personal experience can be the most valuable advice. But unless you are sharing the lessons from your mistakes, advice offered in the first person always has a boastful tone, however helpful you’re trying to be. “I” is not an engaging pronoun. “You” is one of the most engaging words in our language, and it worked in this post. (more…)

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Dear Newsroom Curmudgeon,

I sometimes share your anxiety and occasionally share your concerns about some of the changes in journalism. I learned journalism in the old school, same as you. I am steeped in the same values of accuracy, fairness, dogged reporting and good writing that you cherish. But I’m having as much fun as I’ve ever had in more than 40 years in journalism, I have as high regard for my colleagues’ work as ever and I’m as optimistic as I’ve ever been about the future of journalism and the news business. If you would like work to be fun again, if you’d like to be optimistic again (or, if you never were, to finally be optimistic), I’m writing to tell you about the fun and optimism that I find in journalism.

I wrote about you last fall, but you probably didn’t read that blog post. You’re probably not a regular reader of my blog or a regular user of Twitter, where a lot of journalists learned about that post. Maybe you’re reading this because a colleague emailed you a link or printed it out for you. That’s OK. I’m writing this because an editor asked me recently how to deal with curmudgeons who resist learning the skills, tools, techniques and principles of digital journalism. I gave him an answer off the cuff and sent him a link to that earlier blog post. But upon reflection, I think the best way to deal with a curmudgeon is to talk candidly and directly with him or her. So I’m doing that. (more…)

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