Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Should we really schedule another meeting?

I wish I had been the first to connect the dots, but I wasn't. So I'll just pass along this observation: that journalism's deep thinkers seem to be spending a lot of time in meetings these days, just as the mainstream media do.

Meetings are as much a part of life at a metro daily newspaper as breathing. What with the morning planning meeting, afternoon planning meeting, Sunday planning meeting, special-section planning meeting, etc., etc., etc., it's a wonder the managers responsible for making sure the paper is published get it out every 24 hours.

(As an aside: Early in my time at a metro, I'd have nightmares about missing these many meetings. So I used to devise elaborate Post-It Note and Microsoft Outlook reminders -- which occasionally flummoxed people trying to use the latter to set up a meeting with me. Oops!)

Is it any wonder, then, with so many meetings, that getting an idea from conception to execution at a legacy paper is more like a marathon than a sprint? Or that the mainstream media seem more like slow, plodding elephants than online's nimble, speedy gazelles?

Surely there's a lesson here as the future of journalism is debated.

Yesterday, the topic at a one-day conference hosted by Minnesota Public Radio was "The Future of News: Creating a New Model for Regional Journalism in America"; last weekend saw a two-day conference at Yale University on "Journalism & the New Media Ecology: Who Will Pay the Messengers?" On the West Coast, there was an overlap with Gonzo Camp, which billed itself as a different kind of conference where "ideas get done." And that followed by a day or so the "hypercamp" sponsored by the folks at the School of Journalism at the City University of New York who are involved in the New Business Models for News Project.

And let's not forget two other conferences this month: at Harvard on "The Future of News" and in Australia, hosted by Media140, "a newly formed global collaboration of journalists, academics and social media practitioners" that says it's staging conferences around the world on the future of journalism.


While we learned as children that sharing is good, we know as adults that talk is cheap. (And as journalists, we know that a heavy schedule of meetings can be paralyzing.)

Let's be sure these discussions, near and dear to many of us affected by the implosion at newspapers, lead to someplace other than the next conference.

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