About Me

  • I'm CEO of Newspeg.com, a social news-sharing platform. I've spent 20 years at the intersection of traditional and digital journalism. I've helped to invent ways to read and interact with the news and advertising on computer screens and iPads, and before that, I wrote news stories on typewriters and six-ply paper. I co-founded WashingtonPost.com and hyperlocal pioneers Backfence.com and GrowthSpur; served as editor of Philly.com; taught media entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland; and have done product-development and strategy consulting for all sorts of media and Internet companies. You can read more about me here.

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« To Be Continued, Online and Off | Main | The Vultures Are Circling »

July 14, 2008

Comments

Samuel French

This is what needed to be written a couple of weeks ago, instead of the slamming of everyone associated with traditional media, references to "curmudgeons," etc.

But there are still many publishers parking expensive cars in parking lots while their employees work for low wages.

steve daley

I don't care much about Hiller or Lipinski, but that's a remarkable dopey commentary. Fashionable, in the Slate/blogs rule mode, but dopey. We'll see how the WashPost fares after sawing off a generation of reporters and editors - the wisdom of Ben "On the Payroll for 50 Years" Bradlee notwithstanding...

Samuel French

How much of a contradiction is it to agree with Steve Daley?

Dinosaur hunter

I would think you would have to sweep the broom a little wider to even discover digital natives in leadership positions in either newsroom. There are simply too many layers of techno-phobe editors and star reporters still running the show.

jeff prescott

I usually respect your work, Mark, but this time YOU struck out.
Newspapers are battling other forms of media, yes.
But I'd rather have a curmudgeon run my paper than the guy who programs the (radio) Z-Morning Zoo.....or Fox.

ed

I am in total agreement with you. This generation of management has been an utter failure whether you use economics, journalistic or successful yardstick. It is not to harsh to blame them for this mess. Comb through the stock tables to find out how newspaper properties are performing today tells volumes, and newspapers have become ossified both in how they cover the news and in how they broadcast it, either by the Internet or in print. The business models are in a shambles, and I think more management heads need to roll, if only because it will save some of the cuts coming for reporters in newsrooms.

Mark Potts

I wasn't suggesting that the programmer of the Morning Zoo run the newspaper, and I never have. What we need are editors and publishers with vision, courage and intimate knowledge of the new forms of media that are now available for journalism and advertising. Unfortunately, that generally doesn't exist in the current generation of newspaper leaders, whose track record, alas, reflects that.

Ethics 101

How old are you, Potts? And frankly, I only ask that to find out whether you are a true age-ist or whether you're a self-loathing old fart. Lipinski is 52 -- big deal. It is the personalities of the people in charge of newsrooms, too often lacking in positive, coaching, people skills. It's not simply their age or their shortage of hands-on experience to this point with the Internet. Newsroom execs have squandered rooms full of talent and ideas for decades, regardless of the technology involved. Where are you presuming your youngsters learned how to do things the right way? In some focus group?

Mark Potts

Well, since you ask, I'm about the same age as Lipinski, and I've spent 30 years in newsrooms (and boardrooms), print and online. I don't care what age the editors and publishers are. I just want them to be innovative, daring and savvy about the technology and the changes it's bringing to their industry. Demonstrably--and it's hard to believe there's even a question about this--too many in the current generation simply aren't.

Steve Fox

Hey Mark --

Great post, as usual. Hard to believe it's taken the industry more than a dozen years to understand that leadership changes were needed.

TomH

Mark, I agree with your general proposition. But I'm not so sure about its explanatory power for the Monday massacre.

Yes, newspapers are weighed down by a technophobic editorial culture. But the editor of the Chicago Tribune is not leaving because she's a dinosaur. She's leaving because the industry chaos has lifted a bunch of arrogant snake-oil salesmen to the top of the heap.

Is Ann Marie Lipinski being replaced by a wizard of integrated new-media publishing? No. She's being replaced by a hack who caught the new owner's fancy with an idea for indexing job effectiveness to byline and word counts. A brilliant idea, if you're a real-estate mogul who believes buying and selling office parcels taught you everything you need to know about journalism. But it will be catastrophic for the Trib and the LAT, especially as the faux-scientific basis for another wave of layoffs.

Mark, you're right about the long-run trend. But in the short run, there will be three charlatans for every visionary. And some papers that bled from status quo thinking will die from bad medicine pretending to be innovation.

Hans Laetz

"This older, Baby Boom generation of newspaper managers must give way to a more savvy generation of leadership ..."

So this is what passes for informed comment on journalism?

Old cannot be savvy.

Young good, old bad.

This is as bad as racism and I for one am sick of it.

If your comments were framed in a sex or race-based criterion, you would be laughed out of the building.

If you said this in a corporate setting, you would be sued.

BTW, the new radio programmers in charge of Tribune are all considerably older than the demographic that you posit is going to save journalism by destroying it.

Richard Klicki

Good post, Mark, but your analogy of a baseball team reveals a flaw in your logic. When a team replaces a manager, he must still follow the team owner's vision of the team, even if the manager's system would be more successful than than the owner's.

Even if Lipinski and Heller were replaced by younger blood (and Lipinski's replacement is 6 years older than her.), they are still accountable to the paper's owner and board of directors. And, unless I've been in a coma for the past few, the majority of people controlling newspapers makes us 50-somethings look like young punks.

The problem isn't newsroom management, It's the corporate level that needs a major paradigm ...if not generational ... shift. There are a number of managers out there (Boomer or Gen X or Y) that understand needs and demands of younger readers and have some great ideas to meet those needs, but are frustrated or oppressed by corporate leaders who are still wed to the notion that print is the center of their business.

Yes, age could well be a factor in why newspapers are failing. You're just not aiming the blame high enough.

Freedom's vanguard

Well Mark, I'd say you are spot on with this assessment -- in some respects. In some critically important ways you are not.

Here's why: newspapers of all sizes are undergoing tectonic changes. So what's the reaction at most of those papers smaller than the Washington Post/Chicago Tribune, etc?

Paralysis! A (somewhat understandable) instinct to hack back on all of the limbs to preserve the rotting trunk of print, where most of the revenue still trickles into the OCF. Yes, all too often, those limbs are digital.

The digital branches -- and those who envision a brighter online future -- get cut because A) the Web efforts for most newspapers suck! B) new ideas are risky and may not pan out C) nobody has developed the Holy Grail of a sucessful online presence (at least at smaller papers) D) new ventures take money at a time when there's not enough to go around.

So where does this leave your AVERAGE paper? All too often the progressive thinkers of journalism get sacked. This isn't so much a generational upgrade. It's a moment of hunkering down in the trenches, fiddling with failed ideas (like Lee Abrams' zany plans to draw people back with a dancing elephants design philosophy).

Sadly, new ideas aren't taking root. Too many publishers are trying to squeeze every drop of fruit out of a desicated cash cow. (Pardon the mixed metaphors!)

Freedom's vanguard

I got excited! I meant every drop of milk from a desiccated cow!

Mark Potts

I've written other posts indicting newspaper management all the way up the line for being too slow to change, or paralyzed by fear. This isn't an age issue, and those who've tried to twist what I said to portray it that way are completely misreading me and ignoring a lot of the industry's problems. It's an issue of comfort with change and innovation and facility with new technologies and advertising and journalism techniques. Those skills know no age, though they can be influenced by experience. Those editors and publishers who are rooted firmly in print are dinosaurs. Those who have explored the alternatives, become comfortable with the swirl of technologies and innovation around them, and most importantly, are daring enough to use them to try to solve the industry's problems, will be the winners. Those who do not--and they are unfortunately still legion--will go down with the ship.

carl

Mark,
I'm convinced that the way to make money on the internet (with content) is to deploy hundreds of websites using social media to develope user generated content.

Our site at www.iSedona.com is getting good traction and we have rolled out a number of sites in towns throughout Arizona at www.iArizona.com.

We are redesigning our homepage (next release) and have incorporated some of the suggestions you kindly gave us (big POST button and opening up the community calendar to all).

Our platform is scalable and can be used for groups of all kinds....

Thanks for letting me post...maybe someone out there will be interested in what we're doing.

email me at editor@sedona.biz.

Mark, all the best,
carl

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