Newspapers Aren't Only Ones Struggling with Collaboration

Ann All

I'm a former print journalist who's been working more or less exclusively online for about a dozen years. (Yeah, I'm old.) Several other print veterans work at IT Business Edge. All of us have friends who've been laid off from newspaper staffs in the past 18 months. Many of our still-employed friends are being asked to take more and more unpaid furloughs. It's tough out there.


It doesn't take a genius to see the viability of the traditional newspaper business model has been in decline for years. Newspapers spend far too much money on printing and delivering newspapers to the shrinking number of people who want to consume their news that way. There's paper, ink, offset presses and the unionized labor that runs them, distribution centers, fleets of delivery trucks, etc., etc. Yet newspapers appear to remain mired in the second stage of the five stages of grief, anger. They spend more time lashing out at Google, blogs and other media they feel are responsible for their decline than in trying to come up with workable solutions moving forward or to address issues such as a lack of expertise in search engine optimization.


As Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine points out, in its latest in a series of attacks on blogs, The New York Times shows its unwillingness to abandon "journalism's myth of perfection" and to see journalism as a process rather than a product. Writes Jarvis:


Online, the story, the reporting, the knowledge are never done and never perfect. That doesn't mean that we revel in imperfection, as is the implication of The Times' story - that we have no standards. It just means that we do journalism differently, because we can. We have our standards, too, and they include collaboration, transparency, letting readers into the process, and trying to say what we don't know when we publish - as caveats - rather than afterward - as corrections.


Old-school journalists want to cling to that control-drven model, as I wrote last month. But how long will that remain possible?


The push toward collaboration is happening all around us, including (for must of us) at work. It's no longer about producing a "perfect" business report or spreadsheet or chart. (As if there is any such thing.) It's about wikis and instant messaging and Sharepoint and other tools that help us collaborate with our coworkers -- and increasingly, with customers, suppliers and others.


Sadly, many newspapers continue to simply put the same old control-driven content online rather than involving their readers in the process. In the same way, many companies simply adopt social tools without making necessary changes to their underlying processes. For those companies, Dion Hinchcliffe offers 12 rules for taking your business social. Among them: Do not use social channels for traditional push communication. Censorship kills participation. If you're not sure where your organization ends and the network begins, you're doing it right.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jun 8, 2009 2:35 PM Dennis Stevenson Dennis Stevenson  says:

I really like the Grief Cycle reference.  Seems to really settle well.  I wonder if they are stuck because they believe that if they let the cycle run its course they will have nothing left.  Sort of a dark expectation, but it does explain the behavior.

I've been wrestling with the fact that there seems to be an amateur journalism coming out.  Perhaps not journalism, but publishing - a DIY crowd.  Print media seems to really be struggling to figure out what to do when so many people will do a version of their jobs for free (and often faster and with less friction).   http://bit.ly/b1ttp

Perhaps I should dust off the old philosophy books and re-read about the Hegelian dialectic...


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