Venerable journalist and dear friend and mentor Bill Kovach said it himself just last week: “The Wall” is Gone. Blown to smithereens.
Of course, editorial independence from advertising remains one of the core values of journalism, as the author of the Elements of Journalism clearly knows. However, communication between the parts of newspaper companies is essential to survival — and this truth is perhaps becoming all the more apparent. We can’t sell OUT journalism, but we sure do need to find a way to sell it…and not only to the public, but also to advertisers who provide the bulk of the revenue.
Last Friday I attended a meeting of editors, publishers, news directors, and academics in Washington, DC. Several newspapers that have undergone particularly radical changes in the past few years were represented, and the topic was managing change in the newsroom. I presented some research to the group, but mostly just did a lot of listening.
One of the major themes that emerged was that advertising, circulation and marketing departments in many news organizations may be lagging behind the newsroom in doing a radical rethinking of their processes. As much as people have bemoaned newspaper’s slow pace of change, newsrooms have finally started to take some really difficult and significant changes that have pushed them well beyond their usual comfort zone.
This may sound like passing the buck or looking for a scapegoat, and perhaps that is part of it. However, the theme seemed to resonate with everyone in attendance, and it also appears to be somewhat indirectly reflected in the 2008 State of the Media report released Monday. The report noted that advertising is not following eyeballs online.
The top 10 news sites are mostly venerable old brands, and they have a greater audience share than the legacy media — but advertising dollars have not moved online in the ways that many experts expected.
It seems to me the time is here to have some company-wide brainstorming that brings together far-flung departments that previously would have had no cause to even see each other, much less talk.