March 28, 2007

Notes from ASNE: Changes Underway; Six Things to Do

After beating ASNE over the head the last couple of years for not openly confronting the innovation stagnation in the news industry, it's good to report that this year is different.

Yes, the room still looks more like the convention of podiatrists down the hall in the Washington Marriott than a gathering of news media innovators, but the conversation about change had definitely changed.

In addition to our session on News, Improved (get the presentation here), there are panels featuring media savvy people like:

 Jay Small: "We tend to treat the internet as an information and distribution medium. Most consumers treat it as a communication medium."

And …

 Larry (AKA Rusty) Coats of "We’re asking our web organizations to (remake) an egg from a jay of mayonnaise," referring to how many newspapers still produce content for print first that must be re-engineered for online. "We need journalists to start producing eggs."

And … Jonathan Dube and Jan Schaffer.

Even more importantly, The editors are talking about building constructive cultures in their newsrooms, using strategic training as a growth tool and developing new news products -- digital and print -- to offset the revenue and readership decline of the newspaper.

Here’s good advice from Mike Connelly, executive editor of the New York Times Co.-owned Herald-Tribune in Sarasota, Fla., on how to make changes happen as quickly and painlessly as possible:

 No funny names -- Don't give a project a buzz-wordy name that skeptics can attack. (I saw an example at one of our project papers that had an initiative called Work Harder for the Reader. Work harder? Just want a staff wants to hear.

 Put new demands in traditional terms -- Blogging, for example is just reporting and developing sources (Read: Blogging the Beat.); writing for the web first is a return to the tradition of breaking news.

 10-minute tasks -- Make new demands things that will take no more than 10 minutes. For example: Having a print reporter available to answer three questions from a broadcasters, or having still photographers recording a minute of video to use as background during a voiceover.

 Print reporters can't do it all -- Gather the news, then let specialists for tailor it for different media if much expertise is required. Let the reporters report as much as possible.

 Put change in context -- Market fragmentation is a fact of life. The mass market is gone, which creates opportunities to develop focused content for engage communities, sports content for sports addicts rather than the general audience, for example.

 Revenue is good -- It-s OK to talk about creating journalism we can sell.

Finally, a good comment from Melanie Sill, editor of the Raleigh News & Observer, about the need for priorities: "New ideas are not the hard part. What wasn’t fun and was just plain hard was figuring out what to stop doing."

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Posted by Tim Porter at March 28, 2007 12:55 PM