Transmogrification

Just received the following via an anonymous source:

From Miami Herald executive editor Tom Fiedler, sent to the Herald staff via e-mail on April 12, 2006:

To the staff,

All of you who have stepped off an elevator into the Miami newsroom in recent days cannot have missed the wall-mounted flat-screen monitor constantly displaying and refreshing the MiamiHerald.com site.

And if you’ve attended any of the morning or afternoon news meetings, you will have heard an opening discussion about what’s on that site, how many hits each article has received, and what’s coming to the site later in the day.

These may seem like the incremental markings of evolutionary change, mere head-nods toward on-line as we continue to think of ourselves as newspaper people first, foremost and — perhaps for some — always.

But that cannot continue to be. Today we change. Today, as in NOW.

Three years ago, on one of the anniversaries of our 100th year, we focused time, thought and effort into remaking the newspaper as part of the New Century Project. I have no doubt that it produced a more successful newspaper, one that incorporates all of the great journalism on which we’ve prided ourselves, presented in a more visually exciting and easier-to-use newspaper. Imitators are legion.

But time marches on and constantly improving the newspaper isn’t going to guarantee success, either in journalism or in the marketplace.

I have two messages to deliver today.

First, my goal is to remain as relevant, as important and as influential to this community in the future as we have been in the past — and to do it through world-class journalism. It’s a goal we all share.

Second, we will make delivering that journalism on MiamiHerald.com and our other media platforms just as high priority as delivering it in The Miami Herald. Let me repeat that for emphasis: Just as high.

We are beyond being satisfied with incremental change and giving polite head nods toward other media platforms. We are going to execute fundamental restructuring to support that pledge. Every job in the newsroom — EVERY JOB — is going to be redefined to include a web responsibility and, if appropriate, radio. For news gatherers, this means posting everything we can as soon as we can. It means using the web site to its fullest potential for text, audio and video. We’ll come to appreciate that MiamiHerald.com is not an appendage of the newsroom; it’s a fundamental product of the newsroom.

No more will some people be strictly newspaper staff and others will be strictly on-line or multi-media staff. If you produce news, you’ll be expected to produce it as effectively for the electronic reader or listener as you would for the newspaper reader. If you edit or design for the newspaper, you’ll learn to edit and design for the web site.

We’ll be creating and posting several new jobs that will be necessary to deliver on this mission. We don’t have the luxury of waiting for new resources to do this, so we may need to find the wherewithal by dropping some of the less-important things we do now. Almost certainly we’ll be changing the typical work schedule so we can deliver the news when our audience wants to get it. Of course we’ll invest in training to help everyone succeed in new responsibilities.

The details will be worked out over the next few weeks and I invite everyone with ideas to be involved.

Let me stress that we aren’t going to milk The Miami Herald to do this. This newspaper is what brought us here and it will remain very successful for many years. There is something special and unique about journalism on the printed page and we won’t neglect that going forward. But we didn’t fall in love with journalism because of ink and paper. We fell in love with it because it had the power to change lives for the better — and we can do that on paper, on the web and over the airwaves with equal devotion.

The potential for having even greater impact than we have now is enormous. Although all of us are aware of the challenges we face in keeping newspaper readers, a few facts about MiamiHerald.com:

*In January 2004, our web site captured 100,000 unique local visitors. Last month, just 14 months later, it hosted 250,000 unique local visitors. In fact, between February and March of this year, our on-line traffic grew by 22 percent. Remember, of course, that only on the web site can we reach readers without regard to geographic boundaries, something we do very well and can do even better.

*Across the nation, newspaper web sites increased the share of 18-24 year old readers by 9 percent, and 25-34 year olds by 14 percent.

*We’re making money. In the first quarter of this year, our websites exceeded even optimistic revenue estimates by $2.2 million.

When I entered this business 35 years ago, the way things were done in the newsroom wouldn’t have been unfamiliar to someone doing my job nearly 100 years before. I scarcely can imagine what the newsroom will look like 35 years from now in terms of how we deliver our journalism.

What’s exciting is that we are in the position today of shaping that future. What we do will largely determine how successful The Miami Herald will be in serving generations to come. As I said, that’s exciting — and daunting.

This much is certain: We won’t be successful by standing still and lamenting what used to be. Three years ago this September we launched the New Century Project. Now we need to begin work on the next century and I need each of you to come along.

Tom

A quick response to Tom:

Using the internet and radio and every other source of exposure is fine, but if you really want discerning readers and customers, just cover the news ethically and honestly and keep the biases to yourselves. Dont insult your readers with speculation or innuendo and dont throw in that little statement or jab to “stir up some controversy.” We see right through it and the last thing you want to do is insult the very same customer you’re trying to attract.

I hope this isnt too much too ask.

And remember there’s that new-fangled open source media out here on the net: An Army of Davids monitoring your every move.

10 thoughts on “Transmogrification”

  1. Right on, Val! Maybe the Miami Herald would want to bring some of the BabaluBlog team on board as paid bloggers. That might “stir up some controversy” for sure!

    This is why the MSM doesn’t get it. Adjusting to the new world and technology is fine, but the problem readers are having has nothing to do with the medium, and everything to do with the outright bias.

  2. good answer val…nothing to add …in other words..GO TO BASICS…they are suppose to do the right thing..no more..no less..

  3. One quote really jumped out at me:

    “But we didn’t fall in love with journalism because of ink and paper. We fell in love with it because it had the power to change lives for the better — and we can do that on paper, on the web and over the airwaves with equal devotion.”

    This to me is the problem with journalism today. Right here the Executive Editor of a major metropolitan newspaper is admitting that he has an agenda. He doesn’t see his role as a reporter of facts but as an agent of change. And that’s a very dangerous place for a journalist to be, in my humble opinion.

    What constitutes changing lives for the better? What policies will change lives for the better. Almost every person in the world has good intentions and want lives to change lives for the better but we have different interpretations on how to achieve that.

    Unfortunately the journalism profession today is one that is bogged down by groupthink. There’s almost every type of diversity in the news room except diversity of thought.

  4. Well said Val. The media elites see themselves as gods and the rest of us as uninformed peasants who need their guidance in forming our opinions.
    Thanks for speaking for us,
    Hank

  5. Great post & Comments!

    Conductor,
    “Distes en el clavo!”

    “Journalism is popular, but it is popular mainly as fiction. Life is one world, and life seen in the newspapers is another.” ~G.K. Chesterton

    🙂 Melek

  6. Henry, you are spot on. Journalism is not about “making the world better” or any such rot: it’s about writing a story that presents facts objectively, in an entertaining way, without offering an opinion, and without allowing a personal belief or beliefs to filter into the story. Period. I am not a CSJ graduate, but it seems to me that the MSM has strayed from this for a long, long time now.

  7. I read the Tom’s dribble and when I scrolled down — touche!!! Me lo quitaste de la lengua, Val.

    I take issue with Fiedler’s obsession to be “influential” in the community …. translation: manipulate the facts to push your agenda. Inadvertently, he finally came clean; se le fue la musa y lo dijo.

    Let’s keep this MSM rag on a short leash.

  8. Tom Fiedler claims: “What we do will largely determine how successful The Miami Herald will be in serving generations to come.” This is the same executive editor who recently allowed an admitted liar and convicted perjurer to remain writing for the Herald.

  9. I’m a student at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of journalism. It’s amazing to me that even at the supposed finest journalism school in the world, this elitist attitude journalists have about themselves is not only an attitude – it is the class material.

    My Principles of American Journalism Professor (Charles Davis) has actually told an entire lecture class that “as elitist as it sounds” is it the role of journalists to be the “smart” ones that decide what is newsworthy, and therefor important.

    One can argue that journalism is about more than reporting, and so journalism includes things like columns and editorial/opinion writing. I can see how those pieces may be aimed at bringing change. But these attitudes have made their way in to the world of news reporting, and that is beyond frightening to me.

  10. Professor Davis has a problem. He and his little band of MSM elitists and bag-boys (bag-girls too, yes) no longer are the sole arbitrers deciding what is “newsworthy and important.”

    An Army of Davids – and Judiths – is indeed out there, perfesser!

Comments are closed.