Culture shock

Trying to turn the tide of the decline of newspapers from the inside involves a great deal of evangelizing and pontificating and running through sets of common scenarios with folks who are still firmly planted in the Paper business rather than the News business.

That’s no surprise.

And it’s no surprise that top-down, do-it-this-way mandates don’t work just because the ideas are sound.

Taking those two obstacles as a given, my basic goal when I talk with the staff at a newspaper is to try to identify — or bring out of the woodwork — one early adopter.  This might be a photographer or a reporter with a personal blog or an editor who got sent an interesting link in their e-mail and ended up bookmarking a blog.

The important part of the job isn’t speaking to the first 20 people on the conference call for an hour, it’s maintaining contact with the one person on the call who has the potential to Get It:  Moving from the Paper business to the News business isn’t as simple as picking up a different skillset; it’s about changing the mindset of journalists.

So find those early adopters and corner them.  Point them in inspiring directions and let them start to work out – on their own – where to go next.

Because you can’t mandate mindset.  But you can grow culture.

Related: Jason Kristufek’s notes on a few things Scott Sines said at a workshop in St. Louis.

Links that redefine news

Wednesday night, I’ll be speaking with Steve Sloan’s New Media class at San Jose State University.

I’m planning to show off some of the best of your work.

Yes, you.

I’m looking for online news sites and projects that stray from the traditional definition of news.

I’m assuming these journalism students get enough Gloom & Doom handwringers from other sources, and I have no intention of discouraging anybody from getting into this business, which needs all the help it can get.

So, here’s a list of links. Add your favorites in the comments.

I’m really just scratching the surface here, and notably absent are any multimedia tools and examples.  Add your favorites in the comments.


At the end of 2007, Howard Owens* published a blog post outlining a year-long program he called 2008 objectives for today’s non-wired journalist.

A few of the objectives:

  • Become a blogger.
  • Start shooting your own pictures.
  • Do the same with video.
  • Join social networks.

Howard soon started fielding e-mails and requests for guidance from reporters looking to take him up on his offer of a $100 Amazon gift certificate for the first journalist to go from Zero to Everything as far as the list of objectives goes.

Howard, myself, and Zac Echola got together to start building as a response to those calls for help.

From the Mission Statement:

“Our goal is to help journalists who have few resources on hand other than their own desire to make a difference and help journalism grow into its new 21st Century role.

You don’t need the best equipment, the biggest budget or even management support to accomplish worthy goals. The only requirement is a willingness to learn and a mind open to new ways of thinking about journalism.

We are here to help each other learn basic skills and learn how new technology and new societal expectations for media are changing journalism.

At we are all teachers and we are all students. We help each other and learn together. Those who know more should help those who know less. Those with questions should never be afraid to ask them.”

So please, come join this new community, but more than that, pass the link along to the guy in the next cubicle who doesn’t read blogs.

Pass it along to the photographer who hasn’t built a slideshow.

Pass it along to your editors, your teachers, and your students.

All are welcome.

*(Howard is my day-job boss.) 

Imagination is everywhere

Scott Karp says part of the problem with the newspaper business has been its lack of imagination:

“Nobody imagined that somebody would be so recklessly uncapitalistic as to create a website where people could post classified ads for free. Nobody imagined that an online software company specializing in information retrieval, but which produced no information of its own, could create the largest market for small business advertising that the world has ever seen.”

If your newspaper heart needs a little warming after a weekend of gloom and doom, here are a few places to look for an incredible amount of imagination — on the editorial side of the newspaper, if not always the business side:

What are the news sites that inspire you? And where are the papers pushing the envelope when it comes to verticals and local search? Is hyperlocal the way to compete with Craig/eBay/Google?