Archive

Archive for February 11th, 2013
11 Feb

The Pope, the Invisible Gorilla and journalism

Comments off

This post is brought to you by today’s Morning Edition.

Two stories from today’s show, for me, are made relevant to journalism after running it through my journalistic filter.

Those who know me (or have read past rants) know that newsroom leadership, across the country and regardless of medium or market size, has frustrated me.

The news story about radiologists that invoked the ‘invisible gorilla’ reminded me about this struggle. Years ago, while I was at The Seattle Times, editors were brought into a retreat called Newspaper Next, I believe. (The site no longer exists, but thanks to the way back machine, you can still see it).

This was a retreat that had started popping up in newsrooms across the country, dealing with one central question: How do we pivot and use our existing resources to generate revenue for the newspaper.

Great topic.

During the presentation they played a video that has stuck with me for years since the talk, and which was played this morning on NPR (KPCC is my local NPR station).

I didn’t recall the name, but now know it is called the ‘invisible gorilla.’

While mine was slightly different, here is the video. Play it and follow the instructions.

The logo from theinvisiblegorilla.com is a gorilla reading a newspaper. A newspaper!

So, did you notice the gorilla? Or those other changes? Isn’t that amazing? According to the story and video, 50 percent of people who see this video are so focused on the task at hand that they miss the not-so-invisible gorilla that walks into the frame.

The take away from the video during that newspaper retreat was “are we so focused on newspapers that we are missing the gorilla?” And in newspaper speak, the gorilla meant digital.

A high up editor at the time, after watching the video, said how eye opening the exercise was… me, being a bit of a loud mouth, responded by saying “I’ve been that guy in the gorilla suit. Not only waving my hands, but also jumping up and down.”

Most digital journalists have had this experience.

It’s the culture difference between traditional and, well, digital leadership and competence that is such a challenge. Many of us have dealt with this in a variety of ways.

Which leads me to the second story: The Pope.

In his resignation, Pope Benedict XVI said “I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.”

In today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith … I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me,” said the Pope.

I hear that, then tweet this:

If the Pope can realize he’s not fit to lead in these modern times, why can’t some newsroom leaders? #thingsithinkabout
@webjournalist
Robert Hernandez

And then I write this post.

Look, there have been so many changes in newsrooms and its leadership. We are the better for it. But there is still much more to go. And it’s on us to push it forward.

We will have moments when newsroom leaders retire, take buyouts, etc. … and their incredibly valuable newsroom knowledge will be greatly missed… but we have to remember that we are moving — slowly — toward the goal of a modern, well, newsroom.

This is not about age. No. It’s about understanding culture… in this case digital/Web culture.

And these are the things I think about. And occasionally ramble on in a post.

Please feel free to tell me what you think.

For those interested, here is a Poynter piece from 2008 about Newspaper Next 2.0: http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/business-news/the-biz-blog/87155/newspaper-next-2-0-way-outside-the-box/

π