Training to Mitigate Learning Anxiety, and Other Positive Signs at the LAT

I was encouraged to read in an internal memo printed in LA Observed that the Los Angeles Times plans to incorporate training in its newsroom transformation initiatives. Written by Russ Stanton, the memo says that the paper “will train all editorial employees in new skills in every medium in which we work (print/web/TV/mobile/radio).”

Training has typically not been prioritized in newsrooms the way it is in other industries, but research indicates that training can help to mitigate the learning anxiety I described in an earlier post that is often associated with having to let go of old competencies and go back to the drawing board in the middle or even near the end of one’s career. (I’m clearly biased in this regard in that I used to work for the Committee of Concerned Journalists, which provides newsroom training. )

The memo also offered some encouraging signs for this beleaguered organization based on what I have learned about managing change. Stanton says that that the paper will attempt to let go of dwelling in the past, a silo mentality, and arrogance, three features that research indicates have been barriers to change in newsrooms in the past. A focus on greater interaction with readers and the naming of someone to analyze all of the ways that readers communicate with the paper, and to distill and distribute this information, reflect the insights of the media choice model written about earlier.

To come up with these ideas as well as a more complete strategy for the year 2010, editors spent “27 hours in a hotel conference room over three days,” a process that apparently, and not surprisingly, was intense and at times frustrating and full of heated discussions. Sounds like a nightmare to most sane people, especially those who would rather be spending their day on the news. However, experts in organizational change advocate taking time out of the daily grind in exactly this fashion when the environment requires transformational change. It’s impossible to plan for the future when you are utterly immersed in the day-to-day.

I’m not sure how helpful this post is, but when I notice something about how news organizations are handling change in the trade press, I’m trying to highlight them and offer a little bit of commentary from an academic perspective.

Now it’s off to West Virginia for some camping and canoing for me!! Have a good rest of the week and weekend!


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