19 Oct The “Post-We” Era I – Missing the “We” attitude of the “Greatest Generation”

Recently, it occurred to me that when I worked for a company run by the guys from the “Greatest Generation,” we approached problem solving differently.  “We” could solve any problem our clients faced.  Problems weren’t roadblocks to avoid, but opportunities to improve.  Noone complained about “They.”  Business strategy thinking didn’t start with how can “I” win this game.

Consistent with today’s “Post-We” approach to problem-solving, the “Reconstruction of Journalism,” published by the Columbia Journalism Review and written by Leonard Downie, Jr. former exec. Editor of The Washington Post & Michael Schudson Communication Professor of Columbia School of Journalism, is a solo effort of Journalists.

The article begins by declaring that Journalism is at risk because “the economic foundation of the nation’s newspapers..is collapsing.”   Yet, there is no collaboration with anyone with experience solving economic problems –  marketing people, technology people, finance people, etc. – to come up with new sources of revenue, efficiently, and fund it.

Five recommendations are made – none of which will replace the collapsed economic foundation of journalism – advertising.  Accepting the fate of news as being unprofitable, each of the five recommendations is a different way to re-structure news services as non-profits.

The unspoken implication is – “Mistakes were Made (but not by me)”  (a book by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson which I thank Jim Keenan for recommending).  This book introduced the idea of “confirmation bias” to me. For example,  “Confirmation bias” is what we do when searching online for information.  We honestly think we’re looking for “the truth,” but really, we are searching for support for our hypothesis.  “Confirmation bias” is the hubris plaguing Journalists who talk only to other Journalists about the economic problems with news media.  The tragedy is they are missing an opportunity to learn about all the options available to solving this problem.   In my experience, when people with diverse knowledge-based opinions are forced by crisis to solve a problem and discuss it face-to-face, they will discover possibilities each could never have imagined alone.

I could not agree with Mathew Ingram more – “Instead of ‘how do we get money for what we’ve always done,’ ask ‘How do we provide something worth paying for?’”

If you are interested in the  answer to that question, I’ve got another post for  Journalists:  If my marketing hypotheses for the CJR report historic results are correct, then the implication is that you are not in the news business, but the opinion business.

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katherine@comradity.com