Vision and Values Matter…

…And not just because we want them to.  Here’s some stuff I put together for a meeting last week in Washington, DC.  It’s oriented a bit toward newsroom managers.  According to research on newsroom change:

  • One of the most consistent findings across studies is that journalists often resist, either directly or passively, changes they perceive to be in discord with core values. Researchers have found that these principles are deeply tied to the personal and professional identities of journalists and organizations, and are strongly and continuously reinforced in journalism schools and on the job.
  • Organizations of all kinds that adapt to a changing environment by building on existing strengths and values are often the most successful. Change is always difficult and will be resisted in a number of ways; changing core values (even if you wanted to) is much more difficult than changing processes or behaviors.
  • Journalists are trained skeptics and often believe, unless a case is strongly made and evidence presented otherwise, that changes are being made not to increase the quality of their journalism, but to improve the bottom line in ways that may conflict with core values.Suspicion about your “real” motivation for change can be your worst enemy. People will look for gaps between what you say as a leader and what you do, especially what kinds of behavior you explicitly reward and pay attention to.
  • Connecting change to long-term goals is an important part of motivating staffers. The aforementioned skepticism is a core skill of good reporting and editing and often makes journalists particularly suspicious of leaders who say change is needed but don’t seem clear as to what the ultimate results will be.
  • Although it is, again, difficult to generalize, scholars have found that good leadership is often characterized by the following factors: open and honest communication about both the positive and negative aspects of change, a clear vision and specific goals and, perhaps most importantly, congruence between rhetoric and reality and a genuine concern for employees’ needs.

Where did I get this from? See below. If you want to see these references properly footnoted, holler and I’ll email them to you…the formatting is haywire when I try to post it to the blog. (I’m still learning this whole blog thing, so I might be missing something obvious.)

Daniels, G.L., and Hollifield.C.A. (2002). Time of Turmoil: Short- and Long-Term Effects of Organizational Change on Newsroom Employees, Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 79 (Autumn 2002): 661-680.

Gade, P. J. (2004). Newspapers and Organizational Development: Management and Journalist Perceptions of Newsroom Cultural Change. In Journalism & Communication Monographs (Vol. 6, pp. 3-55): Association for Education in Journalism & Mass Communication.

Gade, P.J. and Perry, E.L. (2003). Changing the Newsroom Culture: A Four-Year Case Study of Organizational Development at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 80 (Summer): 327-347.

Hansen, K. A., & Neuzil, M. (1998). Newsroom topic teams: Journalists’ assessments of effects on news routines and newspaper quality. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 75(4), 803-821.

Kets de Vries, M. (2001). The Leadership Mystique: A User’s Manual for the Human Enterprise. New York: Prentice Hall.

Killebrew, K. C. (2003). Culture, Creativity and Convergence: Managing Journalists in a Changing Information Workplace. JMM: The International Journal on Media Management, 5(1), 39-46; Schein, (2004).

Schein, E. H. (2004). Organizational Culture and Leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Schudson, M. (2001). The objectivity norm in American Journalism. Journalism, 2(2), 149-170

Singer, J. B. (2004). More than ink-stained wretches: The resocialization of print journalists in converged newsrooms. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 81(4), 838-856,

Zelizer, B. (2004). Taking Journalism Seriously: News and the academy. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.




Filed under Research on Newsroom Change

2 responses to “Vision and Values Matter…

  1. Jeremy

    My old newsroom in LA (the Daily News) went through the process of org change about 3-4 years ago. The Web site was more populated with blogs, video, podcasts, and the like each day. It was very noticeable.

    What stands out most is that the newsroom didn’t fight this at all. I have heard the stories from colleagues in other newsrooms, and my sense is what happened at the DN was quite unusual. What stands out as the best reason why this happened is probably your fourth point, that the newsroom was told that this was going to help remake the business model into something healthy in the long run, and so the newsroom fell in line and dare I say embraced the changes.

    There is a flipside worth mentioning, though, and that is management has to deliver as well by sticking to the long term goals. The paper laid off about a sixth of the newsroom three weeks ago (it’s a MediaNews paper, so shouldn’t come as a huge shock given Lean Dean Singleton’s penchant for trying to get blood from a turnip). Now the newsroom is questioning whether it was TOO much of a team player, because many of the people who were putting out the best multimedia were the ones axed.

    So management has to keep its end of the deal. My belief is that you can’t disillusion a newsroom more than once on something like this. What is needed is a team atmosphere where management and journalists are working together for change. Management has to lead, yes, but it also has to tell the truth. That means being honest about the fact that this might fail.

  2. changingnewsroom

    Good point, and good example. I’m finding that the Daily News actually may not be as unique as I too would have thought — I think that the majority of newspaper journalists have actually embraced multimedia very willingly. And it makes sense…for people who love news, it’s exciting to be able to break it faster and to try new techniques for engaging readers. However, you are dead on when you talk about honesty and follow through. The biggest obstacle I see is that in a deadline-oriented business, leaders are just as quick to suddenly drop a new idea or initiative as they are when they start them, and nothing will kill morale faster.

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