Saturday, February 6, 2010

Journal Register CEO Eyes Plunge into Future

This week the Media & Society class at LBCC will examine the newspaper industry, including its glorious history as well as its leading role in strengthening democracy.

We'll also discuss its precipitous decline and the implications for media, which the public counts on to be a watchdog on government and the power elite. We'll see sobering videos on the demise of the Rocky Mountain News and the shift from print to online-only by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

And we'll talk about the vision of new Journal Register Co. CEO John Paton "
to transform our newspaper company into a true multi-media company committed to providing the communities we serve with the very best local journalism."

As he notes in an online missive to Journal Register employees:

I think accountability journalism is threatened in this country as newspapers struggle to find their way to a profitable future. And I think that threatens this country because we provide some of the key checks and balances in our communities. What we do is important and what we do is worth saving. And that means we have to change.
Among the changes he is pushing are:
  • Making better use of new technology, such as social media
  • Equipping every news reporter with a Flip HD video camera
  • Shifting the newsroom's orientation to "outside in," emphasizing collaboration with readers and the community at large
  • Establishing "Community Journalism Media Labs" that can capitalize on the efforts of news entrepreneurs
  • Forming an advisory board to better connect with its audience
  • Announcing a new profit-share plan for all employees
If we do this right we will become a company of ideas where all employees and our communities debate what’s best for our future. And preserve our cherished role of providing checks and balances. And because I believe if we do this right we will become a much more vibrant and profitable company with a dynamic future, I want to make sure all employees share in that future.
None of these changes is particularly innovative in isolation. However, taken as a whole they portend a sea change for a company that includes 19 daily newspapers, 324 "multi-platform products" and an audience of almost 14 million people in 10 states from New York to Michigan.

I wish Paton luck and perseverance for the Journal Register Co. They are on the right track. The time is right to make this leap of faith, rather than wallow in the glory of the industry's past.

The old model is broken and change is coming, he notes in a slideshow that references two of our featured experts this term: Clay Shirky and Jeff Jarvis (author of "What Would Google Do?")

Change indeed.


Update: Troy Record publisher weighs in


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