We need a massive infusion of youth. Students in today’s best journalism schools, such as my own Cronkite School, are doing and thinking important stuff. We need to stop offering them jobs we designed 40 years ago. We need to get them into our organization and urge them to invent. We need to offer them freedom, challenge, entrepreneurial opportunities and veteran wisdom and then watch them go like hell.
Tim J. McGuire, the Frank Russell Chair for the business of journalism at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, in his piece, This I Believe (about journalism, newspapers and the future of media).
It’s an incredible thought piece.
McGuire starts by setting us up with his survey of the industry at present: Audiences that now “pull” the news rather than are passive receivers. Messages that are no longer controlled by the media thanks to the digital revolution. Legacy media that needs to dramatically reinvent itself. Poor quality (and at times boring) journalism in major regional papers.
Our media world was disrupted and blaming the leaders on duty at the time or wishing for yesterday is a fool’s game. It happened. Get over it.
Then he offers suggestions, and they are wise and important. Here are our favorite excerpts (his words, not ours), on a list, because it’s a lot to follow:
1. We must find new ways to measure every thing. The search for metrics to gauge audiences, effectiveness and most of all engagement with our audiences must be one of our most important quests.
2. We have to find new imaginative ways to serve advertisers who want to attract new customers.
3. A key to the mainstream media future is the successful integration of two groups of citizens we have held in disdain for too long. The first are people from outside the news industry. Second, we need a massive infusion of youth. (see above quote)
4. I believe newcomers to the media world are acing us out of investment dollars because they are fresh, exciting and see no boundaries. We have to look more like a startup and less like plodding behemoths.
5. I believe we have to start teaching creativity in universities and make it an essential part of every training curriculum. I am going to do two weeks on Creativity and Invention for my graduate 21st Century class this fall, but my dream is to introduce such a course to the regular journalism curriculum. I’d also make critical thinking a part of that dream course.
6. We should not get hot and bothered about Twitter and Facebook, those particular brands could be passing fads. Social media and the power of citizen conversation is not fleeting and we need to respect and appreciate that our society has been deeply changed by that power.
7. I believe quality news organizations should view the current taste for affirmation rather than information (aka Fox versus MSNBC) as a premier challenge. Rather than passively accepting the ugly fact that too many citizens are enamored of this kind of affirmation, responsible news organizations need to contrast and compare their performance.
FJP: Definitely read the full piece with a cup of coffee when you feel confused or inundated with information and require some hope.
Also read this response to McGuire by Steve Buttry of Digital First Media. We especially like his point that “journalism of the present and future is blend of sources and types.” He invites discussion in the comments section, and we’re interested in your thoughts too.
Our takeaway from it all? That continuous learning, creativity, innovation and guts are the bottom line, no matter how new or old to the industry you are. Buttry writes:
I believe age and generation are irrelevant in selecting leaders for news organizations. Experience has value in leaders, but outlook is more important. I will take my chances on a leader with limited experience and an unlimited outlook over an experienced leader who spends too much time looking back.
We won’t always make the right call, but I believe the best leaders are those with the courage and insight to make decisions, not those waiting for someone to tell them what to do.
Really appreciate both Buttry and McGuire’s faith in young people.—Jihii