Friday, May 1, 2009

12 lessons for editors from the demise of the Rocky Mountain News

The staff of the Rocky Mountain News is now officially cut loose. April 28 was the final day on the payroll for all but a couple needed to complete the shutdown of the business. What can other editors learn from my experience at the Rocky?

1. Never lose sight of what’s important, even in the face of horrendous economic conditions. Journalists cannot control what happens to them. But they can control the work they do. It’s easy to lay blame on others - on the Web or cyclical forces. But what’s most important is what you do with your own work. That’s how the Rocky kept producing journalism that mattered right until the end.

2. Don’t wait to do what you think is right. Procrastination and delay are the enemies of success. Too often newsroom managers take too long to address issues with their own staffs that they know need to be addressed. That may have been OK in the good times, but not anymore.

3. Focus feedback. Make sure in providing feedback to concentrate on what’s really important, issues that will move the needle or strengthen the staff’s understanding of the direction you want to lead them and the identity you’re trying to build for the news organization. It can be frustrating to run a newsroom. Little, stupid errors can draw your attention – and your ire. Don’t get sucked into worrying about those things that won’t ultimately move the dial. Talk about them, if you must, but quickly move on. And be clear that you’ve moved on. If you don’t, you’ll send the message to the staff that those are the things they should care about and focus on. Instead, keep their attention on the big issue – the need to change quickly.

4. Everybody in a news organization needs to care about content. If the newsroom is the only part of a news organization that cares about content, the only place in the building with a passion for journalism and a paper’s connection with its community, you’re doomed. A JOA insulates a newsroom from the business side and separates the rest of the operation from the newsroom. That can be a disaster in this era because advertising, marketing, customer service and editorial all need to be in synch if a news organization is going to have a chance of survival.

5. Stop pretending that you “need” to report something although all your customers already know it. And especially stop acting as if you need to report it as if nobody has heard the news, even though you know that’s not the case. In an era of limited resources, newsrooms can’t pretend that they can be successful trying to have something of everything for everybody. They have to decide what it is they offer that’s unique and valuable and focus on that. That’s your job.

6. When you do No. 5, you will run into resistance from some in your newsroom. Listen. It’s critical not to ignore the concerns of your staff. But don’t give an inch if you believe what you’re doing is right and don’t let the argument drag out. It’s one thing for journalists to wish things could be as they were. Everybody can understand that. It’s another to let them act like things can be as they were. If you do, you’re not doing your job.

7. You need to tap into everyone’s desire to do meaningful work. Almost everybody in your newsroom got into this business with the hope of fulfilling some type of higher calling. You need to connect with that desire, feed and encourage it and show how new approaches to reporting the news can do just that. Let some things go, if necessary, so you can do stories that matter, so you can point to real successes that move your organization in the right direction.

8. Build bridges to the rest of the building and to the community, inspire them with the same message of the value of your newsroom’s work. Editors shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that their job is just to manage the newsroom. It’s also to help build a content company where everybody feels connected to the journalism and the community understands and values your mission and role. Invite advertising and marketing in. You want tips from them based on their experience in the community. And you want them to feel close to what you’re doing. Don’t worry about walls, or the separation of church and state. Instead, worry about values, that the entire organization and the community understand what makes you distinctive and worth caring about.

9. If you think you’ve done enough to make your newsroom an all-platform, real-time news organization, think again. We’re coming from such an entrenched culture, oriented toward daily deadlines, that when we do make changes we’re too easily satisfied. We still move too slowly.

10. We need to recognize that the economics of the business have changed for the long term, no matter what happens when the economy comes back. That means, for example, that combining wage rollbacks with furloughs unnecessarily weakens already struggling organizations. Employees are willing to sacrifice to save organizations they believe in. Make them believe and ask them to sacrifice. Just as management needs to lead by example by taking pay cuts and continuing to work, so will staff members keep at their jobs instead of taking time off. But that can’t or won’t happen unless staff have a reason to believe they’re part of a worthwhile cause, one that has a future. The previous pay structure was built on a business that was no longer there. It’s not smart to pretend otherwise.

11. The newsroom can’t be about what a single individual wants or believes. And that includes you. Too often people in newsrooms think it’s about them, and managers allow that to persist. It’s not. Our charge as editors is to preserve the news organization and the jobs it can ultimately support, however many that may be. If you don’t take this approach, you could end up losing the whole thing.

12. Savor every day. If you’ve had to shut down a newspaper or walk through a silenced newsroom, you know what I’m talking about. As difficult as your situation may feel, at least you have the chance to figure out how to make it work. In your darkest hour, never forget that.


  1. On No. 11 - Often it is the editors who are the ones who act as if it is all about them. That they have all the answers and no one else has a worthwhile idea. They cling to the mantras of multi-platform, tweet, social networks while allowing the one thing that has a reader base and an advertising base - the newspaper - to be destroyed. All so they can be called "innovators."

  2. I'll second what Barca said, and add that your suggestion not to worry about walls between marketing and advertising strikes me as a huge mistake. History and Sam Zell tell us there are very, very good reasons for those walls.

  3. This is some very good advice.

    About this one:

    9. If you think you’ve done enough to make your newsroom an all-platform, real-time news organization, think again. We’re coming from such an entrenched culture, oriented toward daily deadlines, that when we do make changes we’re too easily satisfied. We still move too slowly.

    What kinds of things are you suggesting? Do you have any specifics?

  4. As a reporter who got laid off yesterday, all I can say is "Amen."

  5. In response to Reagan, I'm not sure whether you're looking for advice on how to change your newsroom into an all-platform operation or how to move more quickly. But assuming it's the former, I'd suggest setting a goal where you think you need to be and not accepting that you're just part way there. To do that, you need to make sure that people are getting training, which is difficult in a newsroom. And as soon as they get training, you can't accept any backsliding. People need feedback, support, and they need to know that your serious, that if they don't adopt what you've agreed is necessary for success it's a serious problem that could jeopardize their job.

    As for the wall, the question is whether the whole organization is imbued with the same values. If it's not, then it's us against them. That can't work, in my view, in this age.

  6. Good stuff, John. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Chris Lopez

  7. Well, John, to quote my first publisher - who, incidentally, left the small community daily I started at in 1990, worked his way up the publisher food chain to bigger shops, and then returned to the original paper because it was where he was happiest - editorial and advertising have so little in common that the goals of both are best served by remembering that and concentrating on their own jobs.

    Whenever I hear an editor urging "cooperation" or knocking down walls, I remember that quote. Regardless of the values, we're better off with that wall.

  8. Great post. I love #8.
    I'm in marketing and I love my newspaper.

    It's my job to help sell ads in the paper. It's my job to help sell subscriptions to the paper. If we don't know what the editor is thinking about doing to change and improve columns/sections/pages, it's hard for us to preach for the choir.

    I understand the wall. But I think poking holes in it might be smart, especially during times of change.

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Great stuff, John.

    This is the type of forward thinking that will hopefully wake up the print newspaper biz from its coma.

    Have to disagree with jim_carty though. While we should never compromise the integrity of a newspaper by crossing the line between ads and editorial - we need to understand the symbiotic relationship between the two sides; we need them as much as they need us.

    Nice work.


  11. Thanks, John. I miss the Rocky terribly. The other one doesn't quite cut it for me. And your insights apply to a wide variety of businesses right now.

  12. John,

    Thank you. As a prior editor at a newspaper in North Carolina, I really appreciate this.

    I especially love #7: "Almost everybody in your newsroom got into this business with the hope of fulfilling some type of higher calling. You need to connect with that desire, feed and encourage it and show how new approaches to reporting the news can do just that."


    I live in Colorado too, and am currently freelancing. Cheers.

    Amy Segreti

  13. Hi John.

    Thanks For Sharing this very useful information with us.Great Work.keep it up....

    r4 dsi

  14. Thanks John, I will focus on that. I like your point of view.
    Where to bet in 2014?

  15. There were guarantees upon guarantees. Guarantees to make moguls of clients who challenged open records with them. Individuals' names were distributed in the dailies and electronic media yet destitution continued desolating the land. payday loans

  16. This specific article offers the actual light-weight that you could very easily cherish the actual reality. I like this unique internet record. At the moment furthermore click here Cash Advance Bless a person created for composing informative ideas.

  17. Selamat datang di
    Mari Bergabung Bersama Kami, Tersedia 7 Permainan Dalam 1 User ID:
    - Sakong (New Game).
    - Bandar Poker (New Game).
    - BandarQ (Hot Game).
    - Poker.
    - Domino.
    - Capsa Online.
    - AduQ.

    Apa Saja Kelebihan Bermain Di Wesbsite Berikut Ini Kelebihannya :
    - BONUS REFERAL 10% +10% SEUMUR HIDUP!! Ingat Seumur HIDUP.
    - MIN DEPO IDR 10.000 Dan Prosesnya Super Cepat 1 Menit Selesai.
    - Permainan Bisa Dimainkan Di Smartphone Versi Android Dan Iphone.
    - Win rate 98%.
    - No robot.
    - Fair play 100% player vs player.
    Jadi Jangan Tunggu Lagi? Ayo Segera Bergabung Sebelum Ketinggalan Promonya :)
    Domino QQ
    Texas Poker Indonesia
    Agen Sakong Online
    Agen Capsa Susun
    Agen AduQ
    Agen BandarQ
    Agen Bandar Poker


    Kami Memiliki Promo:
    *Hadiah Bolak-Balik 2D,3D,4D (min pembelian pada line bb 15rb)
    *Bonus New Member Rp. 10.000,-
    *Bonus Setiap Deposit 1% (tanpa batas)
    *Bonus Refferal 1%

    Dengan Diskon & Hadiah Untuk Semua Pasaran:
    *4D : 66% x3000
    *3D : 59% x400
    *2D : 29% x70
    *2DD : 27% x65
    *2DT : 25% x70

    LINE : kapal4d
    WA : +855962200895
    BBM : D8C9D042/D8E09743
    daftar :

    bandar togel
    Agen togel
    togel online
    togel online terpercaya
    buku mimpi togel
    bandar togel terpercaya
    main togel
    link alternative kapal4d

  19. Thank you for sharing this information
    Agen Poker Terpercaya

  20. I am happy with your article, Fajartoto think your website is pretty good. Many articles are very useful for everyone. I am sure your website will grow in the future. Fajartoto will always support your website, hopefully more advanced. keep the spirit... thanks

    agen togel terpercaya
    togel online
    bandar togel terpercaya
    bandar togel terbaik
    situs togel online
    situs togel terbesar
    agen togel
    prediksi sgp
    syair togel hk

  21. Can see the impact in Australia through the corporate world with all of this virtue signalling on diversity and inclusion and implicit bias training, she said.bias training doesn have any solid scientific evidence backing it up. These ideas have impact. They waste money.

    The faster the clock, the faster the program is executed. That is why CPU speed is measured in megahertz Cosplay Mask or gigahertz. Cheap Full Lace Wigs There are other factors in program execution speed such as memory speed, read/write speeds, etc. On the Human Hair Wigs September 2 edition of The National, a story was presented using images of Alan Kurdi, a three year old boy who had drowned along with his mother and brother, in an attempt to leave Syria. You thought it was not necessary to tell this story using such Cheap Human Hair Lace Front Wigs graphic images of a dead Designer Phone Cases child. You noted that the child image in a Turkish soldier arms was shown at the beginning of The National report, and then later in the story more Design Your Own Shirt images were used:.

  22. هنگامی که از معیارهای اساسی راضی شدیم ، قبل از اینکه آنها را به عنوان از لیست بهترین سایت های شرط بندی معتبر خود معرفی کنیم ، بیشتر به بررسی آنچه هر یک از این سایت های شرط بندی معتبر ارائه می دهد خواهیم پرداخت:

    قابلیت اطمینان - صدور مجوز ، سابقه و بررسی توسط بازیکنان
    بازارها ، شانس و گزینه های شرط بندی
    پاداش ها و تبلیغات - انصاف شرایط پاداش
    پشتیبانی مشتری - پاسخگو ، حرفه ای ، دوستانه و مفید
    نرم افزار و ناوبری

  23. On notarial services, supposedly money is needed at the notary to assure the documents. Remember that the contract and the receipt are certified only in the presence of both parties. Scammers for issuing a $400 Payday Loans ask money to reassure the contract from a notary and then disappear.

  24. This comment has been removed by the author.

  25. This comment has been removed by the author.