Leadership Report 2011- Best practice #9

9. Make time for the future

Newsrooms traditionally have been reactive organizations, more adept at responding to breaking news or newsroom gossip than at developing and implementing a long-term strategic plan.

Nicole Hollway

That is changing. Nicole Hollway, general manager of the St. Louis Beacon, says she spends about 30 percent of her time on immediate priorities, 60 percent on priorities for one to two years out, and the remaining 10 percent on even longer term.

When Hollway joined the Beacon in early 2008, the urgent priorities—specifically technical difficulties with the site—required nearly all of her attention. “The platform being used then wasn’t suited to what was happening,” Hollway recalled.

“Now it’s much more about staying on task for this five-year plan in order to enable the organization to continue producing superior content and also earn revenue around those efforts.”

As a 2010-11 KDMC leadership fellow, Hollway worked on one aspect of the five-year plan. She focused on developing a tactical plan for testing and studying ways to deepen visitor engagement with the site: important linkage in potential revenue models.

In a dynamic digital news environment, few organizations have capacity to create a strategic multi-year plan.

Still, leaders of those organizations say making time to reflect on the future is crucial.

Like many of her peers in the program, Karen Magnuson in Rochester says it’s a struggle.

To push her own thinking, she is pursuing a master’s degree in innovation.

“This is the main reason I decided to go for that master’s, since you’re forced to go to class and do homework and do reading. It does force my brain to shift into a different and higher gear. I’m hoping it will lead to much better strategic thinking,” Magnuson said.

Jon Cooper says he does his long-term thinking while traveling from one JRC property to another.

“Some of the drive time, hotel time, plane time is an opportunity to do that,” Cooper said. “While I’m traveling, things still take place without me. That used to scare me.”

At The Christian Science Monitor, John Yemma said, long-term strategy discussions are built into the schedule and are frequent.

“Four of us (me, the publisher, the managing editor and the marketing manager) are a steering committee, and we meet every three, four days, and that’s where the strategy work comes in,” Yemma said.

Increasingly, being part of the future means editorial leaders sit at the table when revenue strategies are weighed.

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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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