Maness: “It’s not about culture, it’s about changing what people do everyday.”

Michael Maness, Gannett’s VP of innovation and design, spoke a the Mid-America Press Institute’s multimedia and design workshop in St. Louis Friday night and said the first thing media companies normally do is try to figure out how to change the culture.

Keynote Address: Mike Mannes, vice president, innovation and design, Gannett Co., Inc., will discuss strategies of innovation to help the newspaper industry to deal with disruptions caused by the Intenet–and to take advantage of resulting opportunities.

He doesn’t think changing the culture is the first priority. Maness argues that it is more about changing what people do everyday that then, itself, leads to the culture change.

As an organizations innovates, he says, you already know where you want to go, or better yet, where you need to be. Start changing people’s behavior to fit where you need to go, as an organization in the media industry, and communicate why. He’s big on transparency.

Maness also laid out six organization goals that led to the creation of Gannett’s information centers.

The new approach:

  • You have to emerge from a print production mentality
  • You have to evolve the watchdog legacy
  • Allow consumers/readers voice and control
  • Build strategic partnerships
  • Put the audience first
  • Build a transformational organization

Journalism is not newspapers

I’m in a struggle and I think I have found a quote that sums it up. It comes from a recent post by Yoni Greenbaum on his Editor On The Verge blog.

. . our newsrooms and online operations are being overtly influenced by dinosaurs who are content with seeing their employer struggle and fail and by curmudgeonly young employees who have a warped sense of entitlement and the oft-mistaken belief that they alone have the insight and the answers to change this industry for the better.

I don’t agree 100 percent with the quote, rather the premise behind it hits home on several points.

I’m struggling to find my place. I know I am further along the innovation and transformation path than most in the newsroom and the company where I work. I think many would agree with that. And I am pretty sure I give off the vibe that I am always right which likely hurts my credibility in the long run.

I am struggling to find that middle ground where I can understand the challenge and struggles of innovation and change and put forth an opinion that does not appear negative, too disruptive or confrontational.

Currently, I feel I am being too negative, especially in the areas of change occurring in the digital media realm at the company. The company has given me opportunities to be involved, but the challenge for me personally has been to find the place where I can be a leader.

So what does this have to do with journalism and the title of this blog? One thing I know for sure during this process is that journalism is not just newspapers, and that change is hard even for those trying to be leaders in the new media, community building, content generation world. We are not free from stress or sometimes sensing that we should become full-time professional hockey referees because it pays better and the game is what it is.

So I stole the title of this blog from the Teaching Online Journalism blog post called Chasing rainclouds away with some positive attitude, which provided a little pick-me-up.

Journalism is not newspapers. It’s bigger than that old tree-killing tradition, and sooner or later, someone’s going to figure out how to get it paid for. Not those old dinosaurs, obviously. But someone will — some sharp-toothed little mammals are going to survive the new era and evolve and grow. I’m sure of it.

Web 2.0 Expo

So I think this is pretty cool. For the second year in a row, the company where I work is sending me and a group I am part of called the Web Best Practices Team to the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco April 22-25.

My buddy Tom and I originally thought it might be an OK thing to skip this year and then pickup on it again next year. That was before we saw the Expo tracks and proposed sessions. Wow. The more thinking I do on this, the more I feel the media industry is in prime position. The key question is will we act soon enough.

Be the mayor of your beat

There are several reasons I am writing this post today. The obvious reasons are recent posts by Mark Briggs, John Robinson and Seth Godin.

Another reason is the people in the newsroom and media company where I work. And yet another is the idea of breaking up the newspaper and go niche.

I like this concept, which is an adaption of all of the above that I read and have experienced: be the Mayor of Your Beat.

Not every reporter or journalist is wired the same, I get that. But I remember my days not so long ago covering cops in Ames, Iowa. There was not a thing that happened on the cops beat or in the court system that I didn’t know about. At least I like to think so. I believe I was the subject matter expert for crime in that small university town.

Not only was it my hard work, but a combination of skills that made me good at it. I also built a network of sources, had a pager, scanner, cell phone, text messages and all the sort to keep me connected.

Now take that example and apply it to journalistic terms today. It is different now. You, the journalist, need to be the one that applies your skills to your beat while at the same time being the Mayor of that beat. Take ownership of it. Your audience deserves it.

Some days that may require kissing babies and shaking hands. Other days it may mean digging your nose into something no good. Bottom line is you have an audience, and it is time journalists understand them and respond to them and when the time comes do what’s best for them and you.

 Still not with me? Take this example from Godin, who was speaking to a group of real-estate agents at the time.

In fact, I think this is an extraordinary opportunity for you.

Without a frenzy, without short-term competition, you can actually build assets that will pay off for the long run. I have two in mind:

The first is to become the expert in what you do. Which means micro-specialization. Who is the single-best agent for condos in your zip code? Or for single family homes for large families? Who is the one and the only best person to turn to if you’re looking for investment property in this part of town?

As I wrote in The Dip, you’re either the best in the world (where ‘world’ can be a tiny slice of the environment) or you’re invisible.

This means being Draconian in your choices. No, you can’t also do a little of this or a little of that. Best in your world means burning your other bridges and obsessing.

Are you ready to seize on this opportunity and be the Mayor of Your Beat? Let me know what you think.

Web 2.0 thinking for journalists

Here is a short quiz for all the journalists out there and it isn’t meant to be a negative thing, but honestly gauge yourself. Where do you best fit between these two options?

1) The internet is an extension to do research, look at news and find sources and that is about it.
2) The internet is a place where I contribute, participate, generate contacts and find new and interesting things that engage me and encourages me to interact and think.

I came across an article that I found on the Online Journalism Blog titled “Local News is Changing, But Not Fast Enough”.

Now what does the short quiz have to do with local news? Well according to the article’s author Paul Bradshaw, everything.

Local journalism is supposed to be all about community, but local journalists’ relationships with communities online are for the most part non-existent, or one-way.

There are lots of examples out there of journalist and news organizations who get the online community – local news connection. The article argues, in my opinion, that this year may a make or break one for those journalist who think in Web 1.0 terms and fall into option 1 in the quiz above.

Online you get back what you give out. By contributing to the blogosphere, to Flickr and YouTube and Facebook, journalists will generate contacts, leads, contributors and readers. That’s Web 2.0 thinking and it’s begging to be explored.

I believe you can’t teach a Web 2.0 way of thinking. It’s more about how people live their lives. So if you aren’t doing it already start blogging, or at least read several every day. Learn what Twitter is and use it. Experiment with Flickr. Learn what mashup means. Do a crowd-sourcing project.

Trying stuff is cheaper than deciding whether to do stuff

A new standard may have been set when it comes to the time it takes to implement an innovative idea in the online journalism world.

Scott Karp has a post, The Pace of Innovation in Journalism, at Publishing 2.0 that argues that time is now 48 hours.

On the web, with cost of technology so low (or, in the case of Publish2, free), innovation can happen very fast and very cheap simply by TRYING.

I couldn’t agree more. Much of the frustration that I feel at times has to do with the lack of moving on an idea. I am a little younger and tend to more quickly on ideas that some. That’s OK.

What I don’t like is another meeting followed by another meeting to try and get something accomplished that could easily be done in 48 hours. I like the fail fast mentality.

Does anyone have any examples of ideas that have been turned around very quickly and done well?

Puppies and Iraq

Billionaire and Tribune Co. owner Sam Zell is just phenomenal. If you haven’t seen the video of him telling a photographer at the Orlando Sentinel to fuck off, you gotta watch it.

The exchange, posted at Gawker, happened after the journalist questioned Zell about his feeling that the industry needs to look more at what readers want instead of the traditional arrogance of telling readers what we, as journalist, want them to know.

I don’t disagree that a fundamental role of journalism and newspapers is to be a government watchdog, but we have definitely ignored our reader’s needs and especially the habits and lifestyles of people who don’t currently read our print products for far too long.

Zell’s point was more about the need to find ways to increase revenue and audience, more than anything, in order to survive and thrive.

“Hopefully we can get to the point where our revenue is so significant that we can do puppies and Iraq.”

Mark Potts, in his Recovering Journalist blog, gives kudos to Zell for telling it like it is, and I couldn’t agree more.

Sorry folks. Zell’s response may have been a bit salty, but he said exactly what every interview subject has thought at the hands of a pushy reporter with an agenda.

A lot of people in the media and newspaper industry need to hear more of this coming from their top executives.

Content is not king

Being a former newspaper reporter it is hard for me to accept and get over the fact that content is not king when it comes to the Internet.

I used to be on the bandwagon that thought content was what brought people online, but that is no longer that case and the reasons are too many to cite here.

People use the internet as a way of life and come to expect certain standards. Facebook and MySpace are about relationships and connecting. Content is a catalyst for those connections, but anymore that is about it.

Jeff Jarvis who writes the BuzzMachine blog said in a recent post that the “old media” way of thinking is hard to break away from, even with the most innovative people in the media industry who are attending the Always-On OnMedia Conference in New York.

The problem with that, I think, is that the internet is more about connections and relationships — that’s where the core value is and content is a vehicle for that.

Jarvis concludes his post with an interesting point about advertising, which we all need in some form to make money.

But someone on the panel pointed to Nike, which is moving away from CPMs and GRPs and heading to providing the infrastructure for communities to do what they want to do. Nike is turning from a manufacturer and marketer of products into a platform.

The overall point is that online is still not fully understood be even the most innovative people in our industry. That is both scary and exciting at the same time.

Why good video matters

I work at a mid-size daily in the Midwest that has been operating under the “good enough” strategy when it comes to video.

I think the strategy of arming willing reporters with small cameras and having traditional still photographer shoot some video is a good approach at the beginning of the transformation into more of a digital or new media strategy.

Colin Mulvany, the new multimedia editor at The Spokesman-Review, has a couple of interesting posts at his Mastering Multimedia blog. The one in particular titled, Good video should connect emotionally to your viewer is right on in my opinion.

The hardest part about my job as multimedia editor is that I have to be the “no” man. I get lots of requests from reporters to shoot video to go with their stories. Many of these requests are turned away because they don’t meet a threshold for good visual storytelling.

I agree that breaking news videos have their place and operating under the “good enough” strategy we tend to be really good at that. But what I really want is what Mulvany calls that “emotional gem”.

Thanks to Mulvany, I stumbled upon one of those emotional gems. It is a video done by Western Kentucky University’s Mountain Workshops where dozens of skilled people profiled the small town of Danville, Kentucky.

Check it out. I couldn’t stop watching. One friend said he almost cried just watching the beginning.

A template for a breaking news story

Rob Curley posted a great dissection on his blog of how the Las Vegas Sun covered the fire at the Monte Carlo hotel which I think can become a template or roadmap for just about any newsroom with a major event, either hyper-local or a story that goes national.

When I finally got back to my computer at the Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive offices and saw how my buddies were covering the fire at the Monte Carlo hotel, my jaw nearly hit the ground. And every time I checked back, they continued to add layers and layers to their newspaper site’s coverage.

I paid particular attention to how the Sun’s coverage began with a live blog that was continuously updated with new layers, then came photos and vidoes and more reports from reporters at the scene.


I work in a newsroom similar to the Sun’s, maybe a bit bigger, that is adopting some of the

principles and or “buy in” and I know how hard it takes to get to a point where reporters and editors think online first.


Curly doesn’t mention anything about user generated content that was submitted to the Sun during the fire. With the Vegas strip likely full of tourists who may not know how to get content to the Sun, that may have been a challenge where asking about UGC is not really valid.