News Leadership 3.0

July 18, 2008

Change. More. Faster.

@ Leadership conference
Spokane editor recognizes
need for ever bolder strokes

Steve Smith, editor of The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, has posted on his blog some thoughts about industry change and changes to come in his own newsroom following this conference. Says Smith:

“If we don’t change more dramatically and faster, there will not be an industry to support the sort of value-driven journalism that is at the heart of our craft.

“The encouraging news is that the tools we need to make the needed changes are readily available to us and that our ability to deliver quality news and information can only be enhanced…if we make the bold leaps.

“And there is the rub. Are we willing to make the bold moves.

“In the SR newsroom, we MUST understand and then embrace the notion that print is no longer our primary focus. As advanced as we are in the digital delivery of news (and this conference confirms for me that we are ahead of the industry curve, as innovative and progressive as any newsroom ), we are still too print focused.

“We need to devote FEWER resources to print. Our editors need to spend far less time worrying about print. And all of us need to be focusing on how to improve and expand the scope and quality of our digital news and information (and that includes radio).

“This is a huge cultural leap. The push back will be extreme. Work schedules will have to change. Skills will have to be refined or re-taught or learned for the first time. Many of us will have to fundamentally question what we do, why we do it and how it must be done differently.

“The editors who push this cultural change forward will not earn many friends in the newsroom. I think that understanding has been sobering for all of us.

“My hope is that our journalists will understand that we must change our practices, while holding true to our news values.

“That will be our only chance and only hope.”

Thursday, each of the newsroom teams at the conference explored key change initiatives for their newsroom. I will be posting some of their ideas over the next several days.

 

June 25, 2008

Does HelloKittyLove08 play in print?

Do unattributed online comments
belong in the print newspaper?

Pat Thornton has launched an interesting discussion over at beatblogging.org about whether news organizations use online comments in print and whether they require strict attribution. Thornton’s survey of five news organizations indicates the old gold standard of strict attribution in print may be melting. He asks:

“Maybe we need to get used to online handles like HelloKittyLove08. Is that really that much less reliable than me telling a print reporter my name is John Smith when I’m interviewed at the gas station? Or does my name change the quality of my comment?”

I have railed against the unfairness of granting anonymity to the powerful (think Beltway) while publishing the names of more vulnerable people who wandered unintentionally onto the public record (think crime victims). So the idea that the Web may be leveling that playing field intrigues me (even though in my old-fashioned journalistic heart, I’d prefer strict attribution).

That said, I think use of non-attributed quotes may be OK when they are representative of the overall online response. An example might be people’s online comments about why they support one presidential candidate over another or what issues are most important to them as voters. Or comments about why a news organization’s coverage of a local issue misses the mark. In cases like these, the fact that many people express an opinion makes up for the lack of a named source.

I’m less enthusiastic about cheap shot comments - such as personal attacks on individual public figures - that may enliven the report but add little meaning to the conversation.

How does your organization deal with unattributed online comments in print? Please add your thoughts in comments below or visit www.beatblogging.org to join the discussion.

 

April 21, 2008

The Miami Herald: Moving furniture, people and attitudes

Continuous News Desk symbolizes and drives change at a major metro newsroom
The Herald also puts multimedia experts in every department
What changes are you making to meet new online opportunities?

imageOrganizational change in newsrooms is a major topic for this blog and I will report on changes in structure, processes or job descriptions, that are fueling digital transitions. For starters, I’m checking in with 10 major metro news organizations whose top editors participated in last year’s KDMC Leadership Conference: Transforming Newsrooms for the Digital Future. When that session convened in January 2007, participating newsrooms were either in the midst of big changes or poised for them. They came to KDMC to test and refine their plans. Judging from follow up interviews so far, these newsrooms have changed a lot in the past 15 months.

Today’s case in point is The Miami Herald, where Rick Hirsch, Managing Editor/Multimedia cites three major changes that have reshaped how the newsroom does its work.

- Creating a Continuous News Desk “as focal point of newsroom decision making. It’s in the middle of the room, and from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. each day, the hands-on leaders for Metro news gathering, Web design, print design, photo, video, copy editing do their jobs. It’s part of bringing on the ongoing decision making from the corners of our newsroom to the middle where we can work swiftly on immediate news (for the web, radio, text messages, e-mail alerts), executing on video and multimedia components, and developing enterprise content and presentation for the newspaper that provides its readers with context and depth they didn’t get the day before on the web.”

- Seeding multimedia experts around the newsroom. “Within each news department (metro, business, features, sports, world), there is a multimedia team that includes a high-ranking editor and reporters and researchers with key multimedia skills to oversee that department’s content on our Web sites. We want each department to have the same ownership of (and passion for) their Web channel as they have for the print section.”

- Creating a new Reader Exchange Editor position “to manage reader interaction on the web—everything from user generated content to commenting on stories. In addition, this editor has worked to develop goals, training and standards for our bloggers as we try to lift blogging as a journalistic form.”

Hirsch talks about the “corners” and the “middle” of the newsroom and I think that’s a very apt way of thinking about smart organizational and culture change. In the old newsroom, most of the action was in the “corners” or pockets of individuals or teams or departments that operated fairly independently as long as they fed material to production in assembly line fashion at the end of the day. This offered efficiency: Stories got covered and the newspaper came out. Over time, in most newsrooms, it also fostered internal competition, weakened accountability to the overall product, and focused people on details at the expense of the big picture. The Web is forcing people in newsrooms to collaborate early and often, to know their audiences and to think strategically. As we see in Miami, changing the physical layout of the newsroom is driving change in how the staff develops and displays content.

“It’s really starting to make a difference. It’s really starting to be the center of gravity for the newsroom,” Hirsch says of the continuous news desk. “Instead of having the center of gravity be the executive editor’s office or the city editor’s office, you want it to be in the middle of the room. It’s helped drive the change that we publish first online.”

And here’s some symbolism: The desk is not only in middle of the newsroom, it’s on a raised platform.

I am intrigued by the Reader Exchange Editor position, especially with all the debate and turmoil news organizations, including MiamiHerald.com, face in dealing with offensive reader comments. I interviewed the enthusiastic and savvy Reader Exchange Editor Shelley Acoca and later this week I’ll post more about how that’s working out in Miami.

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ABOUT THIS BLOG

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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