Real world tips for changing newsroom culture

I don’t have much extra bandwidth these days. But what I do have – I’m giving to the re-emergence of the Journalism Blog Carnival – back after a summer hiatus.

Background: A bunch of us journalism bloggers got together and
decided to do monthly posts on a specific topic that the host chooses.
The host rotates every month.

This month’s host is Will Sullivan the great Journerd in Chief. He asks: “What are some real world tips for changing newsroom culture.”

Here are 10 mantras or lessons (grounded enough to be
considered “real world”) that I’ve been using in my entrepreneurial
life and I think they could translate very nicely into improving
newsroom culture.

  1. Trying
    stuff is cheaper than deciding whether or not to try it
    .
    (Compare the cost of a few weeks of hiring somebody to do Ruby coding
    versus having endless meetings to decide whether or not to even start).
  2. If you want to try something new – identify the path of least
    resistance. Use it to test an idea and if it works, then use all your
    resources to stabilize it. ie: Spot.Us started as a free and quick wiki. Now we are a week away from stablizing that succesful wiki with hardcore technology.
  3. Once you are ready to stabilize with hardcore tech do design
    FIRST!!!!
    Spending more time on design and thinking through things is
    better than rushing into the heavy development and having to backtrack.
    Trust me, it’ll save you… thousands of dollars!!!
  4. It’s not a problem until it’s a problem. I don’t care about all the edge case scenarios you can dream up. I care about reacting to what’s actually happening.
  5. Iterate and stay agile.
  6. Journalism is a process not a product. Community organizing is media. (the least “real world” advice I have).
  7. Don’t be afraid of the Internet. Sign up for every new social
    platform that comes your way. Experience what it is to register for
    them. Act like a reporter while using these sites. What do you find?
  8. Kill the idea of scoops. Don’t develop a project in secret or
    stealth. Hoarding your idea just means you won’t build community.
    Nothing is gained from it unless you are 100% confident you have a
    Google-esque game changing application (guess what, you don’t).
  9. Don’t fear having pasion and showing it. We are journalists but we are citizens too.
  10. Be prepared to fail and don’t take that as a mark against you.
    Failing is great if it’s because you were trying something brand new.
    Fall flat on your face, get up and show people your scars (chicks dig
    scars).

From the TwitterVerse (my tweeple).

Samsa News (Couve): Make ‘em blog
Micah Sineath:

  • Make every employee work within multimedia goals; train all employees in multimedia; hire freelancers while training.
  • Reorganize newsrooms around a “continuous news” model;
    incorporate link journalism, crowd-sourcing, commenting & tags;
    participate
  • Just be agile.

Daniel Victor: My favorite: Encourage peer-to-peer teaching instead of top-down as much as possible.

Dave Burdick: Trickle-up Web 2.0 education: Teach everyone to use RSS readers and integrate it somehow — maybe a What We Recommend feature.

Brianne Pruitt: (Briannepruitt):
Genuine enthusiasm always helps. Also, get a few people on board, make
some changes that give proof of good idea to show doubters.

Miranduh: Don’t say “that’s
not my job” it’s everyone’s job to get the story, get it right &
get it to the audience. Willingly play any role

10,000 words: Stop separating
the print side and the web side and referring to them as such.
Encourage discussion and not just for big projects.

Guy Lucas, NewsBank: Appeal to ego. When something gets traffic or creates online buzz, make sure everyone knows it.

4 thoughts on “Real world tips for changing newsroom culture

  1. Hallelujah!

    Many of us trying to move forward have learned these lessons the hard way.

    Thanks for rounding up the advice, for “bolding” that first tip, and for including the thoughts from the twitterati.

  2. Thanks Jack.

    I can tell you first hand – if I didn’t follow rule number 4, I’d be at square one right now on every project I’ve ever touched.

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