Leadership Report 2011- Best practice #6

6. Get out of the way

New and old cultures may clash in newsrooms. Traditionalists cast themselves as protecting key journalistic values when they resist Web-driven practices. Digital pioneers understand the power of the Web to engage users in journalism, but they grow frustrated with the slow pace of change in tradition-bound newsrooms.

Michael Skoler, of Public Radio International, believes digital natives can carry organizations forward if the leadership is willing to step back, even if it feels risky.

Michael Skoler

“You need to have a special kind of leader who’s secure enough to surround themselves with people who know stuff they don’t. People at a higher level can jeopardize your progress when they thwart your attempts to get new people like that.”

Skoler sees two stages.

First, “you need leadership to buy into the fact that the game has changed and everything needs to be questioned. Not many achieve it,” he said.

“The next step is that you have to have leaders who understand that they don’t understand the new world and be willing to hire people who are steeped in the new world, and they need to then trust them to lead.”

Nicole Hollway, general manager of the 5-year-old St. Louis Beacon, said it’s important to tap into different dimensions of staff members.

“For instance, our Web developer isn’t responsible for reaching out to new audiences. But he happens to be representative of an audience we want to capture.

“So with our hiring, we try to develop teams that have more to offer than what’s on their business card,” Hollway said.

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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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