News Leadership 3.0

April 08, 2008

Credibility study: It’s the engagement, stupid

- A new survey of editors and readers explores credibility of online news
- The public says personal viewpoints from journalists online are beneficial

How is your organization balancing traditional journalism values with new audience expectations?

A new survey on the credibility of online news brings into focus some old school vs new school tensions that news executives, other journalists—and the people who rely on them for news—face.

“The Online Credibility Gap,” sponsored by the Reynolds Journalism Institute and the Associated Press Managing Editors, was released Tuesday via a Poynter News University Webinar. For all the details, read the full report package here.

This morning, I sat in on a Webinar exploring the survey hosted by Poynter’s NewsU and led by by John Bartosek, editor of The Palm Beach Post and chairman of APME’s Credibility Committee.

One top takeaway was the finding that a half the 161 readers surveyed thought it would be beneficial to have “journalists joining the conversation online and giving personal views.” In contrast, only about one fourth of the 1,200 editors surveyed felt that way, and nearly 60 percent thought it would be harmful. I suspect some of the editors on the “harmful” side had visions as they answered that question of journalists ranting and taking sides. My mental response to that thought was “Still?”

I think the public answer is less about wanting opinions and more about wanting engagement and transparency to be part of the information package. Years ago (pre digital revolution), as ombudsman at The Oregonian, I spoke or e-mailed with thousands of readers and worked on a newspaper credibility project. Even then it was clear that the same people who might distrust the motives of journalists they had never met were perfectly willing to trust a journalist they met or spoke with on the telephone. The Web has increased both the expectation—and the opportunity—to engage more fully. I would like to see some comments on how newsrooms are meeting this challenge.

In his NewsU presentation, Bartosek some practical steps editors may want to consider:
—Does your news organization have a clear policy for making online corrections and is it applied consistently?
—Do staff and readers understand the terms and conditions of using the Web site, particularly as it pertains to standards for comments? Do users know that they can report offensive or inappropriate comments and that the site will take action to remove them?

The survey also points to a divide between online news users and editors about whether anonymous comments should be allowed. More on that soon.

April 07, 2008

A new venue for digital news leadership

- Leadership and newsroom culture can drive change - or impede it
- Top editors learn how to drive innovation in their newsrooms
Are you finding ways to make your news organization more creative and nimble? Tell us how.

Welcome to News Leadership 3.0, a place where newsroom leaders discuss the challenges and opportunities of transforming their news organizations and their staffs into adaptive, multi-platform engines of journalism and information.

This blog will focus on the leadership, newsroom culture and ways of organizing newsrooms to create engaging and relevant journalism across multiple platforms. We’ll report on the opportunities and challenges that newsroom executives and online news leaders face as they chart new strategies and foster innovation in a digital news era.

In the newsroom, what are newsroom leaders doing to increase awareness, change attitudes, articulate the vision and prepare people to implement it? What tools and expertise do leaders themselves need to become effective change agents? What new structures and processes are helping newsrooms become more productive and more creative? How are leaders encouraging their staffs to adopt and adapt to new technologies for gathering and distributing news? How are they navigating a growing range of demands in print and multimedia against a backdrop of flat or declining resources?

This blog and these areas of focus are in response to discussions with 20 top editors and online news leaders from 10 major regional metro newspapers who participated in the KDMC’s inaugural Leadership Conference: “Transforming News Organizations for the Digital Future” in January 2007.

Like their peers around the country, these editors were asking their newsrooms to embrace a 24/7 news cycle, to learn new skills, to adopt new attitudes and to find ways to balance the demands of print and online.

The goal of the conference was to give the editors both innovative and practical ideas for changing the culture and the operational focus of their newsrooms to embrace change in the new media landscape.

Now, a year later, we’re seeing tremendous gains of those news organizations and many others as well as their paths forward in 2008. We hope this conversation benefits other newsroom leaders struggling to make sure journalism and good journalists survive what is no longer the Digital Future, but the Digital Now.

If the forecasters are right, 2008 may be more difficult on the legacy news business than the year before. Still, news leaders we heard from recently emphasized a sense of progress, a sense that there is work to be done and it’s doable. 

For example, John Yemma at The Boston Globe/, has a long list of accomplishments as well as a long list of challenges ahead. His comment typified an attitude that has come through in follow up conversations:

“While new media have disrupted the traditional newspaper business as nothing before, causing major restructuring, downsizing, and scrambling on our part, we have also been given the tools to enter media we have not been dominant in before—broadcasting, for instance, via web video and podcasting. We still have a critical mass of journalistic resources ... and we can establish our brand in new media as we have in print by following the same standards but using different story-telling techniques. I don’t just say that, I’m convinced of that. And while I know there is nervousness over the future, I also think that our staff—and journalists everywhere—have moved well beyond denial and are just asking for the right tools and training to do what they do in new media. That is what I am working toward.”

John Yemma’s comments suggest a guiding tone for this space: Let’s be practical. Let’s be optimistic. And let’s get on with it.

After all, pessimism has no future. Even in these challenging times, optimism just might.

So tell us your stories. That is what this space is for: Your successes, your challenges, your ideas and your questions for fellow editors who are transforming their newsrooms and their journalism.

Coming up: Later this week, a look at a leadership initiative at The Des Moines Register.

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Exploring innovation, transformation and leadership in a new ecosystem of news, by journalist and change advocate Michele McLellan.

Get in touch with Michele at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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Support is provided by:

John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

USC Annenberg School for Communication

McCormick Foundation

Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute


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