November 20th, 2008
If you’ve tried to instigate change within your newsroom, you’ve probably heard some exasperated staff members say something like this: “They keep asking us to do more with less!”
From their point of view, this is what “change” often sounds like:
Not only do you have to do your old job (well), now you have to write stories for the Web, which you didn’t have to worry about even five years ago. Of course, you now have to blog – regularly. And shoot video. Don’t know how to shoot video? You’ll figure it out. Edit the video when you’re done, too. Even the intern knows how to do that, right? Oh, and we need all of this quickly — as in now — because our Web audience is gone after 5 p.m. By the way, you should try Twitter and live chats, too.
It’s not hard to see why they feel like they’re being asked to do too much, is it?
Here are three tricks to help spur that change without sparking a mass exodus of talent out your door:
1. Train them well. There’s nothing that makes extra work feel even more burdensome than not knowing what you’re doing. If you’re asking print reporters to shoot video, identify people in your newsroom who already appear to have a knack for it and have them work with those who do not. Pay for a multimedia expert to come in from outside for training if possible. Editing video is tough. Don’t foist that onto someone without some serious training. If your broadcast news reporters are being asked to write print stories for the Web, bring in a writing coach. Your city’s newspaper might even be willing to ship off a wordsmith adviser for a day in exchange for a video trainer.
2. Pat people on the back when they do the right thing. I once had an editor who never gave positive feedback. When I complained/whined a little that I wasn’t getting any positive feedback, he wryly said, “We expect good. I’ll tell you when you screw up.” That management style didn’t work then, and it certainly won’t work now. Even if you’re not the person’s boss, if you catch them writing a great blog post or starting a good Twitter account, send them an e-mail saying how great it is. CC the top bosses. Telling people they’re doing the right things goes a long way, especially considering the current business climate. Also, make a big deal out of successes. When a staffer’s blog receives a lot of comments, send a note out to the newsroom linking to that entry. Explain why community involvement is good. When you get a news tip through Twitter, let everyone know that is where you got it. When the video page views go up, have the money people stand in front of the newsroom and give a cheery report about the growth in that part of your site. People are more likely to take on new things if they see the tools work.
3. Lead by example. Whatever position you are in, show you mean business by making changes yourself. Write a blog, even if it’s not for your publication. Start a Flickr page and invite people to tag photos from a company gathering. Join Facebook, Twitter, Friendfeed, etc., and use them. It lends credibility to your preaching.
Even your organization’s biggest anti-change die-hards know by now that we’re not going back to 1995. Don’t just talk about change — do something to make it happen.