Pre-Conference Interview with Susan Moeller

Submitted by bmitch on Sun, 03/01/2009 – 2:46pm

Conversationalist 1: Susan Moeller

Conversationalist 2: Bill Mitchell

1. What is the story of your work and how did it lead to saying “yes” to this gathering?
— Susan serves as a city editor, cheerleader, coach, editor and defender — but sees her job primarily these days as someone who triages the information coming into the newsroom. She sits next to the digital editor and the two of them are working well together. But we all face the challenge of thinking holistically, starting with the story and imagining the best ways to tell it.

2. We’re well beyond the debate that journalism is changing. Tell me about an experience had with these new realities — roles, tools, relationships, economics — in which the emerging news ecology actually made a difference in telling a story that mattered. What did that experience teach you about the gifts of both new ways of working and the traditional roots of journalism?

— Susan cites coverage of the inauguration by The Cape Cod Times as an example of this kind of work. A reporter and photographer accompanied a local group by train. An editor was also there, providing updates for readers online. And when Sen. Kennedy collapsed during lunch, the editor quickly got to Kennedy’s office to get live quotes. All of which reflected strong use of new tools and old-fashioned leg work.

3.Without being humble, what do you value most about yourself? What do you see yourself bringing to this meeting?
— Susan believes people would describe her as a good brainstormer but also a pragmatist. She likes being creative, but she also is committed to figuring out how to really make things happen. She’s pragmatic without being cynical. She brings the perspective of a small newspaper to this conference (circulation of the Times is 50,000 daily, 60,000 Sunday, and about 25% higher during the summer). The voice of the small paper needs to be heard.

4.What is it about journalism without which it would cease to be journalism; what is its essential core? What are you ready to let go of?
— Skepticism without cynicism. We need to make sure something is true. We’re the watchdog. Stories are the important thing. How we deliver them less so.

5.The year is 2014 and the new news ecology is a vibrant media landscape. What is journalism bringing to communities and democracy that matters most? What steps did we take back in 2009 to begin to bring this about?

— Susan points out that anybody who can answer this question really doesn’t need to be in St. Pete this week. She believes the critical step we need to take in 2009 is figuring out how to make money at this, how to keep the best and the brightest.
In these difficult times, we need to maintain our geographic sense of place.

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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