Innovation is messy

Michele McLellan has been doing some liveblogging of the Knight Digital Media Center’s Leadership Conference this week.

Check out her notes from Krisztina Holly’s talk about innovation.  Holly mentioned seven myths about innovation; I’m going to flip the proverbial script and turn them into Seven Reasons Innovation is Messy:

  1. Focusing your vision on the core problem means missing opportunities popping up in your peripheral vision.
  2. Fail fast, fail often, move on.
  3. Innovators can be irritating.  Especially to fans of the status quo.
  4. Innovation isn’t about putting together the puzzle pieces; it’s about rethinking whether or not that’s the right puzzle you have spread all over the floor of the newsroom.
  5. All the market research and focus groups in the world can’t tell you how readers, or customers, or users will feel about the product of innovation until they have it in their hands.
  6. By definition, planning and management of innovation can be stifling.  You really don’t want to find  yourself on an “Innovation Task Force” unless you’re really into meetings.
  7. Innovation isn’t a race.  First isn’t always best.  Use the tools that are available right now and build on the work of others as necessary to improve incrementally.

To explore this a little further, take a look at some of Matt Waite’s notes on rolling out Politifact.  Someone had an idea, and someone happened to have a way to implement it.  Getting those two serendipitous elements together was the easy part.  Implementing it took a lot of pushing through versions of the messiness above to make something happen.

RelatedMindy McAdams relays this list of seven steps to writing like a digital native from Bill Dunphy.


Steve Yelvington, on the consequences of removing copy editors from the newspaper equation:

“The dirty little secret of newspaper journalists is that a lot of them can’t write very well. That’s by no means universally true, but it’s true enough.”

Zac Echola, on his vision of a distributed and loosely joined newsroom:

“The Internet is my platform. Not a Web site. Not twitter. Not mobile devices. The entire Internet.”

Don’t even try to get that story on A1

Pullquote from a bit of morning reading at the Knight Digital Media Center’s News Leadership 3.0 blog:

“I once consulted at a well-respected metro newspaper where several writers told me they tried to avoid pitching their stories for the front page because the ‘serial editing’ of these stories was such a hassle for them and damaging to their stories.”

That’s Michele McLellan writing about Rupert Murdoch’s claim that the average Wall Street Journal story passes across the desks of 8.3 editors.

How often have you heard from reporters who hold on to a solid story idea because they’re afraid their editors will “just ruin it” ?

8.3 is a big number, too many pairs of eyes for even the WSJ, but in many cases, I think even the three or four editors that a story at a small paper might run through are too many.  To be honest, sometimes one editor can get the job done — if it’s the right editor.

A note to my fellow graduate students: Agenda-setting is real, and it matters who edits a story last and who looks over the copy editor’s shoulder while they put together headlines, but inefficiency outweighs bias most of the time.

Unrelated bonus link:, a fun little database-powered Sunlight-type project that lets you guess  which political party a quotee belongs to.

Migration and alternate reads

I’ve been a little busy for the last week or so moving across the country, although going weeks between posts isn’t really anything new here, eh? As always, I’m posting to Twitter far more often than I could hope to blog here.

While I’m slammed with life and work busy-ness, please check out the following if you haven’t yet:

  • Sean Blanda’s Confessions of a journalism student: “The problems facing journalism schools are similar to those facing colleges overall: industries moving too quickly, lower barriers of entry into certain job markets, and the cost of education outpacing the reward.”
  • Shawn Smith on How to write Web headlines: “Be interesting, not mysterious! Interesting doesn’t mean making readers guess what a story is about. A web reader won’t often click into a story to figure out what your headline means.”
  • The Knight News Challenge runners-up: Including Matt Waite’s Louretta CMS for small-town news sites.
  • Hartnett introduces us to Backyard Post: “What I’d really like to leave you thinking about today is simply the foundation on which Backyard Post is built: Neighborhoods. Not cities, ZIP codes or some other vague, gigantic or similarly off-the-mark stab at reaching actual humans in the actual neighborhoods where they actually live.”

Our new washer and dryer will be here any minute, so I’ll leave it at that. Rumor has it our car is in New Jersey, so we’ve got that going for us. Moving is easy. Migration is hard.