Jack Nissen

Slow and Steady Wins the Race


I’d like to start with a quote from Chris Hughes from The New Yorker:

“Hughes insisted that deep reporting and ideas would still be important to the magazine. “That’s not enough,” he added. “We also have to do videos. We also have to do interactive graphics. We also have to be increasingly smarter–we’ve already made good progress, but even more–about how we use social media.”

As narratives predicting the future of journalism goes, this isn’t a new one. As the monsoon of increasingly digital-reliant media runs ashore the banks of journalism and reporting, it becomes evident that tradition just isn’t going to cut it. It’s not as simple anymore: conducting interviews, reading over notes, writing a piece and publishing it in a magazine. Responsibilities require the typical journalist to go beyond the basic duties Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein practiced in the 70s.

Chris Hughes, a cofounder of Facebook and majority shareholder of the magazine The New Republic, believed the new age of journalism had to embrace such responsibilities in order to stay relevant. And I have to agree with the guy. Most hotshot interns looking for their first job hopefully can see that there is not just print anymore, or just TV anymore. It’s all molding onto the same platform.

Television still produces newscasts, but after they air, clips are cut and loaded on the internet and summarized with a short blurb providing context to the video. Newspapers continue to put out articles following AP style, but they’ll also be found on the internet with editorial responses, relevant photo slides and interactive graphics further allowing them to convey their message. Even radio has hoped on the digital media bandwagon with podcasts finally catching wind in their sails they’ve long deserved.

One can’t fault Chris Hughes for his ambitious new direction he tried taking TNR in. I actually feel sorry for the guy. He had a vision to rebrand the publication; to morph it into a continuously successful magazine. But the way he went about it was wrong.

With media outlets in the midst of transition, it behooves one to integrate the changes slowly. Digitaltonto.com‘s article on “How Traditional Media Can Successfully Make the Transition to Digital” is quoted by saying:

“Digital Media is still new and nobody really knows how to do it all that well. Creativity researchers say that it takes ten years to acquire the skills needed to be really great at something.”

If the art of digital media requires ten years to master, then taking a traditional publication, which has been around for more than one hundred years, and cramming an entirely new approach to the way they do business isn’t going to fly.

Another tip from author Greg on Digital Tonto’s article:

“What is required is more small scale efforts and more experimentation with less senior level involvement. That requires smaller, more flexible budgeting.”

People will be resistant to change. Naturally! That is something all senior level execs should be prepared for when they waltz into a news room sounding like a tech nerd from Silicone Valley. But the trick is to do it in shorter bursts. Increments man! Allow the employees to get acquainted with how you want to do things as you learn how the employees still do things.

This isn’t just for employees’ benefits, but the audiences as well. Catering to an older liberal audience, they aren’t going to like seeing their subscription total decrease by half. The New Yorker even reports at the end of their article (in typical The New Yorker fashion I might add) that Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the most older and liberal gals around, dropped her subscription.

Allowing the audience to slowly move with the publication’s shifts behooves the corporate higher ups, even if they don’t want to hear it.











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