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30 Oct

My imaginary monologue with journalism (leadership)

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NOTE: This is not a tweet or a Facebook status… I’m not sure who this is for, but it’s something I want to write down and document. So here’s a below-the-radar, stream-of-consciousness post, perhaps written only for me. I decided I need to just own this, and dispense with my reluctance. This isn’t just for me. It’s for “us” trying our best to save and advance journalism.

This morning, I woke up with the monologue I would tell an Executive Editor or Publisher or top decision maker at a news organization if I were ever asked my vision on running a newsroom.

I’d first start by explaining to them that my decision making process, while you may think is tech focused, is driven first and foremost by the love of the community and the complete belief that journalism serves and empowers that community by informing it.

Then I’d share that I’ve obsessively thought about the different fronts of “development” I would embark in if I ran the show… content, tools/technology and revenue… these different ideas in my head, but all in the name of journalism.

I’d naturally get so excited that I would start sketching each one of those categories on a napkin, trying to explain to the person what is in my head.

But then I’d stop… perhaps mid-sentence… put my pen down… look the person in the eye and say:

Look, the biggest obstacle in journalism right now isn’t whether people trust “us” or not. It’s not even the revenue crisis we are all facing and feeling every day.

The biggest obstacle is… you.

[Awkward pause]

Then, if the person hasn’t left the table, I’d say:

I can continue trying to explain these concepts to you, draw my little pictures, employ my weird (often pop-culture drenched) analogies… all to get you closer to understanding these concepts.

Or, you can just admit (and hopefully be okay with) the very strong possibility that you may never really understand.

But, also, realize that it’s not about you… it’s not about you understanding.

That spending time on trying to have you understand, so you can approve, has delayed and hurt us for SO MANY YEARS. We can’t afford that time any more.

Please know that you have a very important role here, but trying to be the visionary when you don’t understand is not that role.

Take that leap of faith by putting your trust in the people who are just as passionate, concerned, obsessed about journalism as you are… trust those “Web people.”

You see, I’d say, that for each category I described, there are amazing Web journalists doing work that is changing our industry, but leadership hasn’t noticed, let alone appreciated it.

In fact, these amazing people are on your staff right now. But, because you don’t understand or approve it, you don’t see it.

These people are getting heart-broken by the missed opportunities and your bad decisions. Don’t buy that vendor’s product, especially if it is a CMS! Stop getting obsessed with the buzzwords you hear at conferences! Stop listening to those hype machine, journo pundits offering bad advice!

Stop it.

Because if you don’t, all I’m doing is drawing on a napkin… is writing a Jerry Maguire style blog post… all we’re doing is just talking. Spending time and energy on you and not on the community.

Stop it. And take that leap… with us.

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  1. October 30th, 2010 at 07:07 | #1

    My open letter to you, Robert Hernandez.

    I began Friday at ONA having breakfast with Josh Williams, who did remarkable wok at the Las Vegas Sun. He now teaches Web publishing at UC Berkley: http://joshwilliams.com/

    Josh talked about the lightning bug magic that happened during his time in Las Vegas. He and a talented team did great work because they had a boss “who wrote a big check.”

    You did great work in Seattle … more

    Open letter to Evil Man, aka Robert Hernandez .. http://bit.ly/bl5GN1

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