Laura Emerick, arts editor, Chicago Sun-Times

Conversationalist 1: Kelly McBride, ethics group leader, Poynter Institute

Conversationalist 2: Laura Emerick

When Kelly and I spoke Feb. 26, we spent much of our conversation discussing the just-announced demise of Denver’s Rocky Mountain News. Along with our shock, and the journalism industry’s as well over this tragic development, we agreed that the Rocky’s death makes the Journalism That Matters seminar (and other initiatives like it) even more pressing — to say the least.

As Kelly mentioned, “Everything about journalism is changing. What I care most about is saving journalism’s role as the democratic foundation of society and learning how journalism can best serve its audience in an era of sweeping change. We spend a lot of time [at Poynter] trying to figure exactly how audiences are changing dramatically as the nature of information is changing. What does that mean for democracy and communities? It’s a constant high-wire act.”

So when Kelly noted jokingly that she has been “at the epicenter of the moral universe of journalism” for the last seven years while at Poynter, it’s a jest masquerading as the truth.

As someone who has spent her entire career in print, I’m worried that I won’t learn how to adapt quickly enough. With all the cutbacks and downsizing at my newspaper, each day becomes even more of a race to the finish. Everyone left here has about a half-dozen jobs, and we all feel like those plate-spinning acts on the “Ed Sullivan Show.” In the meantime, we’re largely left wondering just how do we forge ahead into the new media future? Michele McLellan of the Knight Digital Media Center summed it up perfectly in a recent post: “How do you keep learning and leading your organization to new ideas during this crisis? Many editors are so immersed in the crisis of the moment that they are not taking time to learn the new things what they need to know to envision a future that looks radically different from the one they are watching diminish every day.”

That’s our situation in a nutshell.

So my fire-starter question, which has been hurled lately at many print outlets from new media turks, is: Why don’t you DIE already?

About Peggy Holman

Peggy Holman supports organizations and communities to uncover creative responses to complex challenges using innovative engagement processes. The Change Handbook, co-authored with Tom Devane and Steven Cady, documents many such processes. The book is the considered the definitive resource for leaders and consultants working to increase resilience, agility, and collaboration in organizations and other social systems. Peggy co-founded Journalism that Matters in 2001 with three journalists to support the pioneers who are shaping the emerging news and information ecology. Peggy’s latest book, Engaging Emergence: Turning Upheaval into Opportunity, supports people facing disruptions to invite others to join them in realizing new possibilities.
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