Leadership Report 2011- Best practice #2

2.  Adapt the structure

The conundrum facing newspaper newsrooms in transition has been to find a way to feed the print beast while forging new digital territory. Structure matters, and unfortunately, the structures of too many newsrooms are still tilted heavily toward print.

Julia Wallace

At The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, then-editor Julia D. Wallace was one of the first editors to lead a major, innovative restructuring. With digital editor Robin Henry, she honed the plan as a fellow in the 2007 KDMC leadership program. The key idea was to separate the news gathering staff from production and to create separate and equal online and print production capacity.

Downsizing and new strategies brought two more reorganizations in less than three years. For example, Wallace recalled, “We said Sunday is really critical to us and we need to focus on that, so we created a whole Sunday department. We had expectations for them like a certain number of enterprise pieces, etc. There was a lot of clarity and goals set. Digital also got broken out for similar reasons.”

Newsroom reorganization was one tangible result of the KDMC experience for a number of fellows.

David Boardman at The Seattle Times and Sherry Chisenhall at The Wichita Eagle also implemented significant newsroom restructurings to recognize the new realities of digital. John Yemma, 2007 fellow, would implement reorganizations as the top online editor at The Boston Globe and then as editor of The Christian Science Monitor. (See “Newsrooms reorganize to cross the digital frontier” for more details.)

Wallace believes strategic goals must drive reorganization.

“You have to first think about your goals: What are you trying to achieve? Then you start talking about roles, then procedure and processes. Finally, interpersonal issues,” Wallace said.

“If I had it to do over, I don’t think I spent as much time on goals as I needed to. In Atlanta, we did three re-orgs, and where we focused most on goals is where we were most successful. I think most of us know the old structures need to change and that they can keep changing.”

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Leadership Report 2011


Michele McLellan

This report was written by Michele McLellan, a journalist and consultant who works on projects that help foster a healthy local news ecosystem. As senior leadership consultant for [email protected], McLellan helped develop KDMC leadership programs in 2008-2011. She also blogs about key leadership best practices at Leadership 3.0.

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Leadership Report 2011

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Leadership Report 2008

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Leadership Report 2007

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