Arbiters of our future

An effort I’m involved with at E.W. Scripps to have editors and online directors redefine the company’s strategies and to hire 40 paid interns across the company to help free us a bit from the day-to-day demands so we will have the time to take a penetrating look at what the company’s newspapers need to do to grow a future, and then do it, is getting some attention, perhaps, did I detect, praise.

Ken Doctor, a news industry analyst and author of “Newsonomics: Twelve New Trends That Will Shape the News You Get,” wrote about it today, saying:

For newspaper companies, it’s time to re-start the engines. One big question is how. One somewhat new answer is coming, in differing flavors, from companies like Scripps, Journal Register and Hearst. Each is newly trying to involve its staffs in charting new directions for the news companies. … Scripps’ effort, being formally announced tomorrow, is the most ambitious in scope.

I like the energy of the Scripps effort and what appears to be happening at Journal Register. Cultural change is a prerequisite for companies truly aiming to make a transition to operations that at least think digital first.

Bringing in a raft of new talent — and hoping to keep some of it after the internships are over — is a good step, almost Patch-like, in harnessing the passion of younger journalists, unhindered by the past, and ready to grab the digital future.

As Doctor observes, the challenge for those of us involved is to make this effort at transformation, culture change and retooling (pick a buzzword) work where so many previous mornings of today is the first day of the rest of your life haven’t. It’s tough, mentally sweaty work in the greasy nuts and bolts. It’s a calendar of conference calls, deadlines, and report outs. It’s difficult consensus building in an uncertain environment where everyone points in a different direction when you say which way?

There’s a difference between talking and doing; between opining and executing; between white papers and quantifiable results.

Wish us luck; we’re about the latter!

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