News Leadership 3.0

April 13, 2008

Newsroom change: Forget the crowd, find the change agent(s)

One editor’s advice: Focus on early adopters and watch the crowd follow
Who are the early adopters in your newsroom and how are you cultivating them?

Ryan Sholin has terrific advice for pushing change in the newsroom: Don’t waste your time trying to change the whole newsroom at once. Cultivate the early adopters.

I’ve seen this approach work in newsroom after newsroom, as Tim Porter and I described in “News, Improved.” Once the early adopters go to work, the discussion can move from the abstract (and fear-inducing) notions of change to concrete examples of new forms of journalism. Conversely, I have been in many newsrooms where executives thought that merely telling their staffs en masse to change meant they would. That’s a formula for frustration.

As Sholin says: “.. you can’t mandate mindset.  But you can grow culture.”

What approach has worked for your newsroom? Do you have a way to identify and foster early adopters?



Ryan’s exactly right. Innovation in our newsroom has been successful because it has occurred organically. All we needed were people interested in experimenting and managers who knew to say “yes, go for it!” Once managers realize they share the driving, the ride becomes more interesting and fun.

I wrote about it in a post in January 2006.

“The wonderful thing about what’s happened here is that so much of our progress has been organic. People have taken the initiative to experiment and explore journalistic possibilities on their own.”

I filed before I finished. Once folks see that innovation is encouraged, it becomes easy. Innovation and experimentation takes place as part of the work. Most recently, a casual discussion about “getting” the value of Twittering caused several people in our shot to start, just to learn the value.

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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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