Friday, August 1, 2008

What we can learn from the Orlando Sentinel

The Orlando Sentinel, it turns out, has taken a novel approach to ensuring its survival: It turned basic notions of how to run a newspaper on its head.

-- They taught their reporters to think of themselves as "news gatherers" responsible for delivering for both Web and print

-- When it came to breaking news, they taught their reporters to think "Web first"

-- They eliminated editing layers and increased front-line accountability

“We were very newspaper-production driven,” Sentinel editor Charlotte Hall told the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. "I wanted to see ourselves in the new world as driven by news gathering across platforms."


Here's what I like about this:

-- The Sentinel realized that many of its modus operendi (modi operendi?) were merely artifacts of the constraints imposed on journalism when journalism gets delivered in paper format once a day.

They realized that, when you have multiple means of delivering journalism, you can jettison some of the givens you previously took for granted.

-- They broke out of the mindset of being newspaper reporters. And instead, they taught themselves to think of themselves as "people who gather news and disseminate it in different ways." Mindset is hugely important. Everything you do follows from who you think you are. When the Sentinel taught its people to think of themselves as newsgatherers first, it probably liberated them from some of the thinking that was blocking them from operating effectively in the new world.

Photo courtesy of sskennel. Creative Commons license.


Emma said...

And sadly the Orlando Sentinel has cut 153 newsroom positions since Jan. 1. If they're doing it right, I'd hate to see the layoffs at a paper doing it wrong.
Read the article here

Future of News said...

Layoffs are devastating. There's no way around it.

But we can't evaluate newspapers' strategies based on how many people are losing their jobs. We can't look at it like "There used to be 100 jobs, and now there are 52, so that's a bad thing." We actually have to flip it around. We have to say, "If we don't figure this out, there are going to be 0 jobs. So we need to figure out what we need to do to ensure that there are some jobs left after the shakeout."

The news business is the Titantic. If we don't get some lifeboats out there, everyone's going down. If we do get some lifeboats out there, some of this business will be saved. But the hard, hard truth is that there is no way for this whole business to be saved. Not all the jobs that used to be. And not the whole way we used to work.