Magazine article Editor & Publisher

The Spacey Story of Newspaper People: State of the Newspaper Meetings Can Help Bring Everyone Back to Earth and Understand What It Takes to Succeed

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

The Spacey Story of Newspaper People: State of the Newspaper Meetings Can Help Bring Everyone Back to Earth and Understand What It Takes to Succeed

Article excerpt

If Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, then it stands to reason that newspaper journalists are from Jupiter and advertising people are from Pluto, production folks are from Neptune and those circulation guys are from some other universe.

For people whose paychecks come from the same account, newspaper people are just so uninterested in the other departments. And what's more, many take pride in not knowing what goes on elsewhere in the company. At best, it's benign ignorance.

Try explaining to the general public about the wall separating the newsroom from the advertising department--and watch the "Yeah, sure" reactions from the disbelieving public. People not only pass in the hall without a word, there is genuine animosity. Advertising people unhappy about news coverage of the legal troubles of a local car dealer who cancelled his ads. Press crews having no idea why the circulation people wanted the papers so early.

To be certain, this inter-departmental ignorance occurs in other industries. Silos are common. But newspapers actually encouraged the separation through ethics policies that applied to one department and not the others; dress codes for some, but not all.

And as long as everyone made money, it was fine for this Great Labyrinth of China to exist. The occasional misstep created outcries (remember when front-page ads meant we all had lost our virginity?)

A certain size of silo will always exist, but the gulf of misunderstanding has reached a critical stage. Today you hear journalists moaning about how the publisher is "giving it away for free" on the Internet. And digital audience mavens complain about paywalls. We might have changed the names to "Content Editor" and "Audience Acquisition Director," but the dearth of fundamental knowledge about the business model and the intertwining parts hurts the industry as it searches for a clear path to good journalism, growing audiences and advertisers and profitability.

When newspaper people talk about creating a new model for the future, do they honestly think it will be handed to them by an outside consultant? Or worse yet, that the plan will be developed by someone else's department? That will fly as high as the proverbial lead zeppelin.

Many publishers have cross department leader meetings. …

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