Doing great journalism has been and always will be the answer

Journalism is not dying. It’s thriving on a new ground floor. It’s a time of great transtion that today’s students will look back on in 20 years and know they played a part.

I always feel this way when I stop and look at all this is avaialable and possible in the digital age. There are more tools than any of us know how to use. But sometimes the traditional ways are so prevalent that I wonder if enough newsroom leaders are seeing the potential.

Newsrooms layoffs continue, but that’s not the work of journalists. That’s the work of the business side that sells advertising and makes all of the necessary dollars-and-cents decisions.
So how do newsrooms affect the business side without getting their hands dirty? It’s always been clear to me that producing great journalism is the key because it is the commodity we’re all trying to sell.
The question these days is how. Anytime I come across journalists with lots of newsroom cred talking about this I like to share it.

Watch the video below that I found on Steve Buttry’s blog The Buttry Diary. Dean Baquet, the  executive editor of the New York Times, spoke at LSU and discusses the difference between mission and tradition. He says mission is taking on big, ambitious projects and deciding whether to investigate them or explain them. And part of that mission is covering the mundane but working hard to make it more interesting than in the past.

Here are his three key lessons if you don’t have time to watch it now.

Lesson 1: Journalists have to lead the business to remake its future. Stay independendt of advertising, but create new forms of storytelling that advertisers will line up to sponsor.

Lesson 2: Print is great, but it is just another platform. Newsroom meetings should be now-focused.  What are the biggest stories now, not tonight when we finish the print edition?

Lesson 3: Don’t be shy about the need to understand your readers. Understand the best ways to get the best coverage to most of the people. Get more and more sophisticated to know when people want to read what. Personalize  digital reports just like we personalize print sections.

Baquet adds, “Do what’s important, do it well and you will be read.”

  • Be fresh and open to new ideas.
  • Don’t get stuck in tradition.
  • Most of what we do is actually not mission-driven, it’s just tradition.
  • Say yes more often than not.

Dean Baquet from LSU Manship School on Vimeo.

So how does this happen? We have to not care about the platform. We have to go with what best tells the story. And we must continue to develop a mindset that looks at stories like the list in the Tweet below. It’s a list by Tom Rosenstiel that empasizes doing great journalism. Simply applying these concepts will help a newsroom grow the business by building a more loyal audience.

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