Thursday, November 13, 2008

The blind leading the blind

I just don't get it. One of the biggest news stories of the day is the imminent implosion of GM and other car manufacturers. It's driving everyone crazy that we're thinking of bailing out corporations that willingly refused to read the writing on the wall, rejigger their business models, and position themselves for the future.

And yet.

Today, 50 newspaper CEOs are huddling at the American Press Institute in Reston, VA, to figure out how to salvage their industry.

On the one hand, their own newspapers are reporting on what numbskulls those automotive CEOs are and how they got us into this bind we're all collectively in--and even in some cases, how those recklessly mismanaging bums should be tossed out so that bailout money doesn't go to waste. And on the other hand, they can't seem to realize that, in looking at that story, they're staring into their own.

There isn't a single person out there who believes the car manufacturers will find their way into the future without it being dictated to them from clearer-thinking folks. So why, I ask you, why does the news business think that the executives who exhibited the very same behavior as those car executives--who clung to the old ways of doing things when it was clear those old ways had no future--will be the ones to now figure out the future?

You know who should be in that meeting? The people who've been working on the future, who've figured out how to do journalism in the new world. Why didn't they invite the head honchos from Talking Points Memo, Politico, Nerve & Babble, TechCrunch, GigaOm, Yahoo! News, TreeHugger and Huffington Post? Granted, not all of these are "news" sites in the traditional "newspaper" sense of the word. But they are all sites that report news--and are doing so profitably. So maybe they know a thing or two about how to make things work in this new environment we're in.

Albert Einstein once said something to the effect of: "You can't solve a problem with the same thinking that got you into it." So why, could someone please explain to me, does the news industry think it can?

Note: For a lively conversation on this topic, visit Jeff Jarvis' BuzzMachine.

PS: Upon further research, I think this is worse than I thought. According to a note on the API website itself, this is a meeting about how to "turn around" the news industry, and it's being led by a management professor and turnaround guru. Now, I'm not an expert in these things, but don't turnarounds only work when a company is underperforming within an otherwise healthy industry? I just don't see how they can do much good when it's the industry itself that is problematic. In that situation, you need innovation, not turnarounds, no?

Photo courtesy of clagnut. Creative Commons license.

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