No magic formula for changing today’s newsrooms
Newsrooms have different cultures and different ways of operating, and so it is up to media leaders to effect change by leading and doing things themselves.
In the case of the Nation Multimedia Group, chairman Suthichai Yoon said he had to start the change by blogging and tweeting himself, and building a personal brand that in turn helped boost the media company’s brand.
“We’re still learning, still adjusting. We also have our own cultural problems. But we did it from the ground up,” he said speaking at the “Leadership Lessons to Survive and Thrive” session at the World Editors Forum at the Centara Grand in Bangkok.
He said it took him five years to convince photographers to start taking videos. Reporters were equally hard to convince to take up blogging and tweeting, he said, because they thought they were just fads.
“I had to convince them of the fact that the digital world will change our lives totally,” he said.
Editors attending the forum were in agreement that journalists should be open to change and embrace it.
“The real skill is being able to evolve, constantly learn new skills and embed them with the core values of journalism,” said Jonathan Halls, a professor at George Washington University.
However, Halls said there was no magic formula to make changes in the newsroom. “No matter what approach you take, transformation is very hard work and it is unpredictable,” he said, adding that it takes 20 per cent journalism and 80 per cent leadership to make an environment work.
Jeff Jarvis, director of the Tow-Knight Centre for Entrepreneurial Journalism, said a journalist’s skills were long-lasting – but a person’s ability to understand change, learn and experiment were the things that would push journalism forward. And it was important for journalists to work with technology they were comfortable with.
“Technology provides us with new ways to serve people and one of the new skills journalists have to acquire is to build a relationship with the public.”
Suthichai cited the presence of Nation Group editors and reporters in social media as a way of bridging the gap between the media and the public. Nation Group journalists have about 2.5 million accumulated followers on Twitter.
“Each staff member can create their own personal brand on social media but once they are presented on print or television, they must have the basic fundamentals of journalism that represent the group,” Suthichai said.
He added that senior editors at The Nation’s convergent newsroom were there to ensure that content – whether print, broadcast or new media – adhered to the ethical standards the company stands for.
At the end of the day, whatever changes and innovation newsrooms undergo in the future, the quality of content and the reliability of the brand remained king.
“Credibility is the only thing we have to sell and [should be] as independent as we can make it,” said Andrew Holden, editor-in-chief of Australian newspaper The Age.