Home' Local Media Today : December 2010 Contents Motivational messages are plentiful.
Simplicity of thought, like the coach who
tells our sports reporters, “We take one
game at a time,” is not.
In my early days, I covered many
teams. If you were lucky, the coach,
known to all simply as “Coach,” would
deepen the reporting experience by shar-
ing with you why you “take one game
at a time.”
In the game of business, we have: “Make
progress every day.” “Think more strategi-
cally.” “Be more innovative.””Embrace
change.” And then there’s my personal
favorite, and I do mean it, “Look, act and
sound like a leader.”
In my past two columns, I wrote
done with a
ing a culture
ate an abundance of ideas and experi-
ment. We call that our “Oasis” team.
This month, part three focuses on
adding up wins and keeping score. Are
we strategically micro-focused to win?
That’s exactly what the coach is saying
in, “Take one game at a time.”
We need to keep piling up the wins.
Ron Shoopman, the president of the
Southern Arizona Leadership Council
and a friend in Tucson, offers a simple
way to sharpen your game. The retired
brigadier general, who has extensive
leadership experience, says that without
a clear view, “how do we focus all the
energy? It’s more important to decide
what you’re not going to do.”
Shoopman organizes his concept of
strategic focus into three parts: Endeavors
you lead, endeavors you support, and
endeavors you endorse and monitor.
After all, he contends, “you have to be
careful what you choose to do.”
Every employee, especially department
managers, can benefit from this level of
simplicity. How often do we see micro-
managers fail because they can’t pass the
ball or get out of the way? Sadly, a lot.
Leadership, in this age of fast-paced
innovation, requires getting the right
players in the right positions at exactly the
right time. For football fans, the opposite
is watching the play clock expire as the
confused quarterback struggles to call the
play. The players, looking for direction,
hang their heads – delay of game.
Winning is also about changing direc-
tion. And Rick Surkamer, the president
and COO of the Sun Times Media Group
and a Suburban Newspapers of America
board member, places even higher
value on those who can “anticipate and
“Different jobs have different levels of
anticipation, but they all have some,” he
said. “You’ve got to do both – anticipate
and execute all the time.”
Author Dr. Gary Bradt, a friend and
coach for our newspaper, explains in his
book, The Ring in the Rubble, “We tend
to take the simple and make it complex
and we take the complex and make it
nigh on impossible.”
Bradt, a doctorate in clinical psy-
innovation team, “Oasis,” to dump pro-
cess and go get wins.
He writes, “When unexpected change
hits and turns the best-laid plans to
rubble, it’s normal to feel angry, scared,
or confused, or perhaps a bit of all three.
In fact, you should expect that.
“It’s like heading out the door for your
drive home from work when someone
suddenly informs you that all the traf-
fic laws have changed: red no longer
means stop, green no longer means go,
and yellow no longer means gorealfast.
Which side of the road to drive on, the
street signs, and the traffic signals have
all changed, but the new laws have yet to
be written, and no one has a clue about
what to do.”
It’s at this time of rapid change that
Coach Bradt tells us to embrace the
unexpected and take one win at a time.
And that’s the simple truth.
Your feedback is always welcome.
Reach me at jhumenik@azstarnet.
December 2010 | SUBURBAN PUBLISHER | 3
JOHN M. HUMENIK
SNA Board of Directors
N M. HUMENIK
Sharpen your game
and production processes
Journal Register Company has been ‘in the
news’ quite a bit since John Paton took over
as its new CEO this year thanks, in a large
part, to a series of steps that signify a new
direction in leadership as well as opera-
tions at their 324 multi-platform products
in 10 states.
In Paton’s directive for JRC to become
a Digital First company, he launched an
early initiative called The Ben Franklin
Project, a groundbreaking experiment that
originally challenged two newspapers in
the JRC family, one daily and one weekly,
to participate. The goal for each paper
was twofold – to empower the audience
to determine what stories the reporters
and editing staff should be focusing their
efforts and, to produce an edition of their
website and newspaper using only free
The weekly chosen for the initial experi-
ment was The Perkasie News-Herald, part
of Montgomery Media in the greater
Philadelphia market. Montgomery Media
Publisher Betsy Wilson, along with col-
leagues from The Pottstown Mercury,
another JRC paper, were on hand at the
SNA Fall Conference to share details of the
experiment and the many valuable lessons
learned with this project.
Wilson reported that her staff was inspired
by Paton’s new leadership and by being
selected to participate in the experiment;
they were energized and ready to tackle the
task but quickly realized how challenging
it was to bypass the company’s legacy,
“Using only free web-based tools to do
everything associated with a single publica-
tion cycle has very big implications.”
Her team jumped into the project head
first and editors immediately decided to
convene a town hall meeting, which they
streamed live on their website, to open the
community dialogue. Staff members, with
plenty of Ben Heads to go around, were on
hand to announce the new community-
building journalism project and asked
residents and readers to become part of
the news-gathering process.
The community was overwhelmingly
positive about being invited to participate
and to share input on issues that report-
ers should scrutinize. Many, many ideas
bubbled up and the editors selected a
couple local issues – a pay-as -you-throw
trash system and the community’s electric
supplier contract – on which to focus their
reporting and editing efforts.
Wilson also reported that this experiment
led her newsroom to become much more
involved in using social media to connect
with audience and to help with the goal of
putting end-users at the beginning of the
news gathering process.
“At our smaller weekly, this project jet-
propelled our work with social media.”
The tight deadline of just one month from
being assigned the Ben Franklin Project to
bringing it to fruition forced a rapid learn-
ing curve for Wilson’s team. With no time
to deeply analyze and debate, they were
immersed immediately in the ‘doing’ part of
the story and the resultant lessons learned
proved invaluable in the long term.
Wilson said they came to truly embrace
the public as part of the process; the discov-
ery and use of many new tools, the free web
based tools, awakened new curiosities; and,
by abandoning traditional methods, they
experienced a perspective shift about news
gathering and information sharing.
See page 18 for more on the free web-
based tools used to complete this project.
Publisher Betsy Wilson showed off the 'Ben Heads' her company used to rally public
interest and involvement in the Ben Franklin Project.
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