Ryan Sholin asks in this month's Carnival of Journalism:
What should news organizations stop doing, today, immediately, to make more time for innovation?
A scene from the Grey's Anatomy season finale I saw last night comes to mind:
A young man is trapped in quick-dry concrete, which he jumped into because he thought it would impress a girl. While he's moaning in ER--the cement is leaching water from his body, burning his skin, crushing him slowly--the team of doctors, who are all highly gifted and well-trained, is arguing over what has to be done first.
Finally, the chief comes in, says stop arguing, each take a piece, and then everybody gets to work.
It's a cheeky metaphor for newspapers, I know, but we do have a similar problem. There's a lot to work on, all of it seems urgent--vital--and plenty of advice from all corners:
- Go web first
- Build a community around your content
- Fix your CMS
- Develop a video strategy
- Develop a more general multimedia strategy
- Reinvent classifieds and job ads
- Embrace mobile
For individual journalists, the open list of possibilities is equally expansive. There are lists of lists of what every reporter could (and some say must) learn.
- Sound slides
- Online community management
These are all good ideas, and all good skills. But too many places and too many reporters--myself included--are going in too many directions at once.
Trying to solve every problem in one shot--to build the perfect newsroom, indestructible CMS, that universal theory of everything--is almost guaranteed to leave you with an equally immense list of reasons why nothing can be done at all.
In the same way that trying to cover everything at once yields deep coverage at nothing, trying to fix everything at once is most likely to fix nothing.
So here's my answer to Ryan's question: Stop trying to fix everything. Sit back for a minute and think this out a bit.
On a strategic level, find the low-hanging fruit and the cheap solutions. Start small, really small, and build on successes. Getting any one thing right and nailed on the list above will do. Then do something else.
For individuals, same thing, except you need two. Will Sullivan calls these the Peace Out skills, the kind you can walk away with.
And for everybody, please: Don't panic.