20200
P
1
20100
R  E
2
2070
D   I   C
3
2050
T   I   O   N
4
2040
S   F   O   R   J
5
2030
O  U  R  N  A  L
6
2020
I  S  M  2  0  2  0
7

Everyone in your organization, moving toward a common goal

“We hire journalists specifically because they resist moving in the same direction. We hire them for their independence and their fiercely critical minds.”

Change is hard — we all know that. And in our industry, change is coming at us at a brutal pace, full of opportunity and peril. So as I look forward to the coming year, it seems to me that managing change will be the key challenge.

In the insanely fast-paced news industry, the demands of producing daily journalism are relentless, so finding the time to bring people together for the purposes of communicating about and planning for change is often the first thing to fall through the cracks. That has to change!

In 2020, staff retreats for visioning, strategy, and team-building will be an important driver of success. Finding money in the budget to bring teams together will deliver big returns. And saving money by not making them happen will be no kind of savings at all. It’s going to be more important than ever for people in different roles, like business and editorial, to really understand what each other are up to and work together to achieve goals. This requires walking in the other’s shoes.

For instance, it would be good if a web developer spent time tailing a journalist to see what a day in that kind of life looks like. It would be a great, if sobering, learning experience for a journalist to spend a day doing the subscription manager’s job, to see what it’s like trying to leverage journalism into revenue. He or she might just emerge from that experience muttering about getting blood from a stone. It would be fantastic for everyone on the team to spend a day as the editor-in-chief or CEO. And how great would it be for the CEO to be reminded what it’s like to try to turn around a beautifully written, well-reported piece, by going out on deadline and covering a story again?

Let’s face it: We could all use more insight about each other as we confront challenges and change. If we’re going to create a sustainable, healthy future for journalism, one that allows us to do high-quality, factual investigative reporting that truly serves our audiences, everyone on the team will need to genuinely understand everything that goes into making that possible. We will need to know, really know, what we are collectively facing. Moreover, with all the real obstacles we’ll need to navigate in 2020 (and we don’t even know what they are yet), our industry needs collective strength, more collaboration, and solidarity.

This past year, our management team at the National Observer has undergone a seismic shift. We went from being an organization that made decisions in an old-fashioned, beat-reporter kind of way to becoming an organization that tests and experiments and tries a lot of new things — an organization that’s data-driven. And yes, feathers have been ruffled along the way, and they will be again next year.

Getting everyone on our teams moving in the same direction is going to be a key challenge of 2020, and I doubt it will ever feel easy. We hire journalists specifically because they resist moving in the same direction. We hire them for their independence and their fiercely critical minds. We hire them for their ability to accurately and compellingly bear witness to the truth and, yes, for their ability to effectively question authority. We have to expect that they will respond to suggestions of new ways of doing things internally with the same skepticism and rigor they’d apply to reviewing a government report.

But getting on the same page will be the difference between sinking or swimming. I know that’s the case for our company, and I have a pretty good feeling it’ll hold true for the rest of the news industry. The internet is a very big place; there is more than enough room for lots of news organizations to succeed. We certainly plan to, and we welcome company. But in 2020, those of us who aren’t able to pull together to convince audiences to pay for our journalism will fall behind or go out of business. That will require a willingness to be responsive and to embrace change. Those of us who can do this will punch far above our weight. And even in this ever-changing industry, we’ll be around for years to come.

Linda Solomon Wood is the editor-in-chief of the National Observer in Canada.

Change is hard — we all know that. And in our industry, change is coming at us at a brutal pace, full of opportunity and peril. So as I look forward to the coming year, it seems to me that managing change will be the key challenge.

In the insanely fast-paced news industry, the demands of producing daily journalism are relentless, so finding the time to bring people together for the purposes of communicating about and planning for change is often the first thing to fall through the cracks. That has to change!

In 2020, staff retreats for visioning, strategy, and team-building will be an important driver of success. Finding money in the budget to bring teams together will deliver big returns. And saving money by not making them happen will be no kind of savings at all. It’s going to be more important than ever for people in different roles, like business and editorial, to really understand what each other are up to and work together to achieve goals. This requires walking in the other’s shoes.

For instance, it would be good if a web developer spent time tailing a journalist to see what a day in that kind of life looks like. It would be a great, if sobering, learning experience for a journalist to spend a day doing the subscription manager’s job, to see what it’s like trying to leverage journalism into revenue. He or she might just emerge from that experience muttering about getting blood from a stone. It would be fantastic for everyone on the team to spend a day as the editor-in-chief or CEO. And how great would it be for the CEO to be reminded what it’s like to try to turn around a beautifully written, well-reported piece, by going out on deadline and covering a story again?

Let’s face it: We could all use more insight about each other as we confront challenges and change. If we’re going to create a sustainable, healthy future for journalism, one that allows us to do high-quality, factual investigative reporting that truly serves our audiences, everyone on the team will need to genuinely understand everything that goes into making that possible. We will need to know, really know, what we are collectively facing. Moreover, with all the real obstacles we’ll need to navigate in 2020 (and we don’t even know what they are yet), our industry needs collective strength, more collaboration, and solidarity.

This past year, our management team at the National Observer has undergone a seismic shift. We went from being an organization that made decisions in an old-fashioned, beat-reporter kind of way to becoming an organization that tests and experiments and tries a lot of new things — an organization that’s data-driven. And yes, feathers have been ruffled along the way, and they will be again next year.

Getting everyone on our teams moving in the same direction is going to be a key challenge of 2020, and I doubt it will ever feel easy. We hire journalists specifically because they resist moving in the same direction. We hire them for their independence and their fiercely critical minds. We hire them for their ability to accurately and compellingly bear witness to the truth and, yes, for their ability to effectively question authority. We have to expect that they will respond to suggestions of new ways of doing things internally with the same skepticism and rigor they’d apply to reviewing a government report.

But getting on the same page will be the difference between sinking or swimming. I know that’s the case for our company, and I have a pretty good feeling it’ll hold true for the rest of the news industry. The internet is a very big place; there is more than enough room for lots of news organizations to succeed. We certainly plan to, and we welcome company. But in 2020, those of us who aren’t able to pull together to convince audiences to pay for our journalism will fall behind or go out of business. That will require a willingness to be responsive and to embrace change. Those of us who can do this will punch far above our weight. And even in this ever-changing industry, we’ll be around for years to come.

Linda Solomon Wood is the editor-in-chief of the National Observer in Canada.

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