There’s a sense in local newsrooms around the country that the economy’s so bad and jobs are so vulnerable that “now’s not the time to try new things!” This stubborn, panic-fueled sense of shock reminds me of the refreshing calm that radiated from US Airways Capt. Sully Sullenberger in his gripping 60 Minutes interview. It all happened in 90 seconds. The mighty bird that just can’t be simply knocked out of the sky, suddenly was, and the crew had two options–soil themselves or try something new.
It sounds a lot like local news managers and GMs. The bird that was so strong–the local affiliate that reliably printed money since the dawn of time–is suddenly falling out of the sky at an alarming rate. Passengers are screaming “we’re all going to die” back there, and it feels like a lot of managers are just staring at the cockpit controls repeating a mantra: “the car dealers will advertise again…the car dealers will advertise again.” But even when they do, things will have changed. The financial model, the way consumers get their info, it’s all changing, mighty bird or no mighty bird.
Some are trying new things. In DC, Lane Michelsen and Patrick O’Brien are crafting an Information Center out of what was one of the most old-school of old-school stations, WUSA. Reporters provide for multiple platforms, Channel 9 hits its followers with Tweets, and you get the sense these guys stay at work late thinking, “what else? what are we not thinking of?”
So for those of you who still aren’t even sure about Facebook (don’t get me started, In mentioning to a friend that my engagement pictures were up on Facebook, and he should have a look, he told me he didn’t have time for Facebook, couldn’t I just show him the pictures? Huh? Like I carry them around in a paper envelope like it’s 1978?) and for those of you who twitter at the mere mention of Twitter, Steve Safran at AR&D has assembled a gentle, it-won’t-get-in-your-eyes-Mommy-loves-you post on “10 things to try right now that are cheap or free.” He writes: “Here are ten things you can implement in your newsroom right now, cheap or free, that will improve workflow, Website performance or both.”
What’s the harm in just reading it? So sit down, take a breath. Take another. And click the link. Oh, sorry. You know the words that have lines underneath them? If you put your cursor (the think on the screen that moves around when you touch the mouse) over those words and click, you see the article. It’s like magic! Anyway, click through and read. And don’t freak when you see that Twitter is idea number 1: “Get several staffers on this.”
A good, sensible read. You might learn something.