June 22, 2006

Ken Sands: Thinking About Tomorrow, Today

I am wading through a rewrite of a section on leadership and vision for the book my very patient writing partner Michele McLellan and I are doing as our Tomorrow's Workforce project wraps up.

The going has been tough since so much of what I want to say in the book I've already said here (or others have said so much better than I elsewhere). Whenever I lack inspiration, or simply can't remember on which of the hundreds of Word files littering my computer I secreted away the exact quote I need right now, I call up a real journalist, ask him or her about their work, and come away recharged.

Today, Ken Sands did the job for me - and I didn't even have to interview him.

Ken, as so many of you know, is the online publisher of SpokesmanReview.com and a longtime advocate for, well, just about all the things newspapers should be doing online - blogging by the staff, aggregating community blogs, inviting local citizens to blog about the paper, webcasting its news meetings. Whatever it takes to engage an active, inquisitive, technology-empowered community.

In preparation for Bloggercon tomorrow in San Francisco, Sands posted a case study of SpokesmanReview.com on Jay Rosen's Pressthink. The two of them will participate in a session on citizen journalism.

Ken tells why he's going to Bloggercon (a rare representative of the traditional news media) …

"I am the publisher of that site. And I'm trying to do better journalism with it. I need to know about the tools in use (but not in our industry) and how to get them for my newspaper. I want to hear about technology that doesn't exist yet, but could be invented.

"This is no idle exercise. Ideas that come out of BloggerCon can meet their test in Spokane. Our newspaper is eager to experiment."

And explains the urgency with which he works for change in an industry that resists it from the core …

"… we know the users are in charge of their informational encounter with us. Increasingly we operate "on demand" from them. Only a fool would fail to recognize the new balance of power. But these are difficult notions for the Association of Tight-Assed Editors of America."

And offers a decade's worth of possible initiatives for SpokesmanReview.com, most of which could apply to Any Newspaper In America. Among them:

 Consumer-goods comparison shopping.
 A regional online encyclopedia.
 Outdoors and recreation: real time data sharing.
 High school sports news.
 Holding politicians' accountable.

Most notable, I think, among Ken's cogent observations, are the many questions he asks. Will this work? How? Can we collect the data? Where should we start? Is this redundant or necessary?

So much of the book I am writing addresses the need for newsroom leaders (especially) and their staffs to focus on the future, to imagine what's possible, to envision obstacles and devise solutions, to, simply, think. To think about news, about their communities and their news organizations and find the places where they overlap.

Ken Sands - and many others at his newspaper - are already doing that. Go read how.

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Posted by Tim Porter at June 22, 2006 10:18 PM
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