Despite the seismic changes fueled by the Internet, and exacerbated by the economic downturn that led to the further erosion of advertisers, mainstream media–management as well as rank and file–have been late to adapt to change. Although journalists typically pride themselves on the ability to adapt to changes throughout a workday, their flexible nature has not been so evident when it comes the changing media landscape.
There are a number of actions mainstream media must take:
First, media companies need to change their theory of business in order to remain competitive in today’s marketplace. As management and leadership pioneer Peter Drucker notes, businesses can collapse if their theory of business—assumptions a business is based on, including customers, competitors, values and behavior, technology, and dynamics—is not revised to keep up with the changing marketplace.
Second, traditional media must engage their audience. News can no longer “lecture.” People want to be part of the conversation, and for those communications professionals who think otherwise, your audience has plenty of other places to turn for information. Average citizens now have the power in their hands to be part of the newsgathering process, for example. The top-down approach is no longer effective.
While journalists may voice their concerns about new media, such as the potential threat to journalistic standards, the partnership with average citizens is actually an opportunity to strengthen journalism. As Dan Gillmor, author of We the Media, notes, “an audience that participates in the journalistic process is more demanding that passive consumers of news.” Because the web has allowed for a conversation between reporters and their community, it provides a desperately needed vehicle to revive civic journalism.
Third, traditional media must remain vigilant about quality of the product/content. The massive layoffs of newsroom staffers and the closure of numerous media outlets only add to the crisis. While pushing content onto the Internet may be easy, it is much more difficult—not to mention important—to maintain the quality of content. Despite all the tools at our disposal, the fundamentals of journalism must prevail.
Fourth, role convergence must be embraced and managers must know how to handle the challenges with rank and file. In newsrooms across the country, new media is dramatically transforming the job responsibilities of media professionals and placing new challenges on the news managers who must implement these changes. In addition to reporting for traditional on-air newscasts, broadcast journalists, for example, are being asked to assume more day-to-day duties, including shooting video, updating website content, and maintaining blogs. By all estimates, role convergence is here to stay.
In order to develop and implement effective plans, supervisors must first attempt to understand the current and potential impact of the proposed changes on their staffs. For example, news managers must attempt to ascertain how reporters, the “innovation foot soldiers,” will navigate through the process of integrating new media into their traditional job responsibilities. Managers must provide support for their subordinates as they adopt the changes.
Journalism is unlike any other industry, so the plans to improve efficiency must be highly scrutinized as to not undermine journalistic integrity. Journalistic institutions have the awesome responsibility to act as a watchdog, serve those who are voiceless, and inform the public of important issues that they otherwise might not know about. It is imperative that supervisors maintain journalistic integrity, or else the public may respond with distrust, ultimately undermining the profession and adding to the current struggles of news organizations.