While it’s obviously hard to divine much about an organization’s approach to change from a mere memo, executive editor Kevin Keane makes some smart choices in his memo to the Bay Area News Group – East Bay (MediaNews). What are they?
1. “The NewPaper Project will impact every department of our news operation, and EVERYONE – from news clerks to senior managers – will be asked to participate.
Involving everyone — not just top managers — in the change process is crucial in getting buy-in. Getting input from everyone also building the realities of different types of work into account.
2. “I will not ask you to do more with less. But I will ask you to challenge your assumptions on what readers expect of us and how to best use our time…Perhaps we should shrink our coverage area and concentrate on what we know we can still cover well given the size of our staff. Or form regional partnerships with other media.”
Instead of just piling on more work on already stressed staffs, the time has come for news organizations to start seriously thinking not only about what they can start doing, but also what they can reasonably give up.
3. “SOME GIVENS: Here are the underlying principles that will guide our discussions moving forward. JOURNALISM MATTERS. Fairness. Accuracy. Balance. Context. Analysis. Informed opinion. It’s what feeds our credibility. OUR MISSION REMAINS THE SAME: To provide local content that is both unique and relevant to our readers and our communities. FEWER PEOPLE DOES NOT MEAN THAT OUR COMMITMENT TO EXCELLENCE HAS DIMINISHED. We will invest – yes, invest – in staff development and training, and devote appropriate resources to watchdog and investigative journalism. WE WILL NOT FIND THE FUTURE BY DWELLING ON THE PAST. What we did before was very good, but we can be better. NEWSPAPERS NEED TO MAKE MONEY TO SURVIVE. And right now they’re making a lot less than they did before. We need to be open to new products if we’re to reach different readers.”
Although Keane calls these “givens,” he still takes the time and space to spell them out. This is very important. Journalists will reject change that they perceive as conflicting with their values (for good reason). If we want to be sure these values come alive online, we can’t just assume that will naturally happen…we need to be more conscious about how those values will be expressed in our daily work.
Again, this is just a memo…managers have to back up words with actions.