Faster than you think, slower than you want

Posted on September 24, 2008 
Filed Under Journalism

In training, I often say the phrase Change Is ComingIt will be faster than you think and slower than you want. It may sound contradictory but when you are addressing a mixed audience confined to a room of either whiners or winners the phrase applies.

The whiners in the room say that change is coming too fast, they can’t keep up – heck they don’t even have time to sift through their emails, nor face a computer screen once they reach the ‘safety’ of their homes. The younger whiners bitch about the older ones: “They don’t get it.” “They’re not open to new ideas.” “They think signing me up as a friend on Facebook shows that they are with-it.”

The winners, well, they’re the quiet ones. They absorb and digest and respond by applying what they learn. They know change won’t come easy but they find ways to win their bosses over. Or leave. Like Rosenblum says they can be the change or wait till their bosses die.

Mindy McAdams and Jeff Jarvis make the point clear in their recent posts.

Mindy:

During the past year I’ve been in a lot of newsrooms and talked to a number of journalists, mostly working at medium-size and larger newspapers, about online. The journalists often wonder aloud whether their managers know enough about online — and note, they are talking about the ones in charge of the online.
But over the past weekend, I heard a couple of reporters say this in a more pointed manner:

“We have no leadership.”

That’s a stunning statement, in my opinion. And let me add, they were not whining. They may have sounded a bit angry, or disgusted, but not outraged. It’s mainly a statement of fact. The editors and publishers — and yes, all those folks in corporate — don’t have a clue. It’s more and more obvious.

While this is harsh, it’s also true. I don’t mean to dump on the staff, the reporters and designers, editors and producers. The managers have made many stupid decisions, often out of pure ignorance or from fear. They have fired consultants who told them radical change was necessary and paid big bucks to other consultants who smoothly assured them that “content is king.”

But the reporters and designers, editors and producers, were there too. Just like solders in a war, or average German citizens in Nazi Germany. They were there, watching the terrible decisions being made and going right along with them.
If you have no leaders, step up!

Jeff:

Journalists are such a whiny bunch, always complaining, constantly blaming someone else for their problems. But friends, as the Rev. Wright would say, the chickens are coming home to roost.

Newspapers and newspaper companies are about to die. The last remaining puddles of auto, home, job, and retail advertising are about to be sucked down the drain thanks to the economic crisis and credit is about to be crunched into dust. So any newspaper or news company that has been teetering will fall. If Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, and AIG can fall, so can a puny newspaper empire — and there’ll be no taxpayer bailout for them. When this happens, will it be Sam Zell’s fault? Hardly.

The Times veterans should not be suing Zell. They should be suing themselves. Oh, I, too, am angry at the state of newspapers in America but I’m angry at the right people. The LA Times’ problems — like those of other papers — were caused by by decades of egotistical and willfully ignorant neglect by the owners, managers — and staff — at the paper…

When the internet came, did you all – every one of you as responsible, smart journalists, on your own – leap to get training in audio and video? Did you immediately hatch new ways to work collaboratively with the vast public of bloggers able and willing to join in local journalism? Not that I saw.

When the link economy emerged, enabling papers to find new efficiencies by saving resources long spent on commodity news so they could concentrate on their real mission — local — did you grab the opportunity by the horns and beg to cover the hell out of Encino? No.

More Mindy. More Jeff.

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