News Leadership 3.0

January 13, 2009

Turning rivalries into partnerships

Ideas for ‘09: Collaborate with the former “competition” so that fewer journalists cover the routine and more journalists develop unique and significant enterprise stories

Poynter’s Rick Edmonds says 2009 will be a time of further pooling of news coverage by major news organizations. I agree. We’ll see more former competitors working together. So here’s idea #3 for the New Year: Consolidate and collaborate to enable journalists to increase news enterprise rather than simply producing more routine copy or cutting staffs - and the journalism they produce—ever closer to the bone.
The duplication of effort across larger newspapers covering the same turf—particularly in government and politics - has been enormous. Sure, it’s important to have more than one watchdog on duty at the statehouse. But too often, the watchdogs became the herd, covering the same hearings, writing up the same turn of screw procedural votes, and capturing the same political skirmishes that never quite enlighten real motivations or inform about policy.
Smart statehouse editors learn to balance reporter time devoted to routine stories with time devoted to investigative work and other enterprise. In many cases, the contributions of the Associated Press have helped carry the routine load. But as staff numbers have declined and demand for breaking news for online have increased, many editors have found themselves wondering where their enterprise - significant, in depth stories that only their organization has discovered or been willing to take on - will come from.
That’s the idea behind The Miami Herald and the St. Petersburg Times joining forces in Florida’s state capital, Tallahassee, in December, according to Anders Gyllenhaal, editor of The Miami Herald.
We don’t want to double the number of stories. That’s not the goal,” Gyllenhaal told me in an interview. “This helps us focus on 100 percent more enterprise.”
This merger also calls for adding a staff position in Tallahassee. Miami had two reporters there; St. Petersburg three. Gyllenhaal said Miami will add a position - clerk and database expert - to bring the total to six.
He said the staffs have divided the beats and some have ownership for local issues such as the delegation of each organization’s readership. But he anticipates about 75 percent of the coverage will focus on state issues and the more experienced reporters will focus on enterprise.
“There’s never been a time when either paper has had a six-member staff in Tallahassee,” he said.
He said the keys to pursuing the partnership was that the two organizations had similar philosophies about coverage and that their core readerships are separate.
I asked Gyllenhaal if he anticipated further sharing on coverage. “Not necessarily. These ideas sound great. A lot of work is required. We have to be careful the work isn’t greater than the returns. This is a discrete and logical move. It may not have a second act.”
News organizations in Ohio, North Carolina, and Maryland are among those sharing content.  Here’s an Associated Press roundup, “Former newspaper rivals cooperate as jobs are cut” (link via
There are lots of opportunities here. The leadership challenge is to make sure the collaboration enriches the news product - be it the print newspaper or the Web site - with more than the sum of its parts.
What ideas for collaboration is your news organization considering? What’s already working for you? Please share your ideas in the comments.

Idea #1: Newsrooms must “wind down” on print while still publishing a newspaper
Idea #2: Expand your site as a network connecting people and information


One of the challenges this presents is identifying those “enterprise” stories without the ground work and sourcing found through reporting the “routine ones.”
Communication and collaboration will be key to the success of this and similar team efforts. No great revelation there, but it’s important to keep in mind.

Thanks for the comment. Yours is a terrific insight. When there is internal competition, good story ideas often get hoarded and may never get done. Leaders in these efforts need to foster collaboration to successfully merge operations.

Page 1 of 1 pages

Commenting is not available in this section entry.


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).

More Leadership at KDMC:
Leadership Seminars | Annual Leadership Reports

Support is provided by:

John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

USC Annenberg School for Communication

McCormick Foundation

Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute


@michelemclellan on Twitter

Recent Entries





Tag Cloud