Magazine article Editor & Publisher

You're in the Army Now

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

You're in the Army Now

Article excerpt

One, two, three, what are we fighting for, study asks

In an industry where reporters boast of "beating" competitors, editors "kill" stories that aren't fit to print, and publishers fight "wars" with rivals, it should come as no surprise that the first comprehensive study of newspapers' operating culture concludes that it is akin to the military.

The finding was the first result from the Readership Institute's "Impact" study that is attempting to find ways to reverse the long-term decline of newspaper readership. Robert Cooke, whose Human Synergistics firm has studied the culture of businesses for more than 15 years, found that 73 of the 90 newspapers he studied had the same operating styles as the military, or hospitals.

"It's a perfectionist style where all mistakes are to be avoided," says Readership Institute Managing Director Mary Nesbitt. "You're expected to keep track of everything ... and work long hours for narrow objectives."

So true, says Houston Chronicle Assistant Managing Editor Susan Bischoff: "After the laughter of being compared to the military or to hospitals dies away, people acknowledge that that is the way we've gotten the paper out. To get things to happen in a timely fashion, we do get very militaristic."

This style, which Cooke calls a "defensive culture," is good at many things and clearly has served newspapers well over the years. The problem is, it is also a style that does a poor job in times such as the present, when rapid technological and market changes are transforming the business environment. …

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