Leadership Report 2011- Best practice #7

7. Use the tools

Were news organizations slow to adopt digital tools because their leaders didn’t use them?

For example, Facebook launched in 2004 and by 2009 was a dominant social networking platform.  How many news organizations had active Facebook profiles before 2009? Not many.

When Knight Digital Media Center focused its 2009 leadership program on social media strategy, many of the participants - top editors from leading newspapers—were setting up or actually using Facebook and Twitter accounts for the first time.

Sherry Chisenhall

Sherry Chisenhall, of The Wichita Eagle, paints a stark picture of the newsroom tools gap in the early going.

“Say you’re using a flip phone and you’re a senior editor. How are you going to show people how to file from a smartphone in the field when you don’t know what one even looks like?”

Is it possible for top leaders to develop digital strategies without using the tools?

“I think you have to” use them, said Carolyn Washburn, of The Cincinnati Enquirer. “You can’t understand Twitter without using Twitter. I didn’t understand it at first, but once you get into it, you understand how it works. Using an iPad, using an iPhone, using apps, location-based tools, mapping, etc., if you’re not using these things, you can’t understand the readers’ expectations.”

“You have to use these tools consistently, too,” she added. “Once in a while won’t cut it.”

Christine Montgomery, chief digital officer at the Center for Public Integrity, said it’s important to understand how the tools work but that doesn’t mean becoming highly immersed in technical details.

“Anything that doesn’t require technical ability, like anything social media, I do,” Montgomery said.

“Of course, you have to be there, otherwise how do you figure out how to translate journalism into this world? I try everything. You can’t be snobby about it.”

“What digital does is open up a whole way to create services out of the work that we do. At first I thought it was just a platform for telling stories, which it is. But it’s also more than that.”

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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 2009

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Leadership Report 2008

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Leadership Report 2007

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