Report of Journalism That Matters Breakout session
RETURN TO MAIN REPORTS PAGE
A Blue Ocean Strategy for Journalism
[More at The Huffington Post
Convener: Steve Brant
Reporter: Steve Brant
- Jeff Young, Chronicle of Higher Education
- Holly Stocking, Indiana University School of Journalism
- Jennifer Ward, Fresno Bee
- Kathleen Kennedy Manzo, Education Week
- Tom Davidson, The Tribune Company
- Manny Garcia, The Miami Herald
- Angela Nelson, The Boston Globe
- Maurreen Skouran, The News & Observer, Raleigh, NC
- Andrew Haeg, American Public Media / Public Insight Journalism, Saint Paul, Minnesota
- Bob Greiner, The Washington Post
- Rob Park, Graduate Student, Point Park University, Pittsburgh, PA
- Wally Bowen (came in for the last 30 minutes), Mountain Area Information Network, Asheville, N.C.
Essence of the session: "From reporting on problems to reporting on problems being solved!"
The professional journalists in this session recognized that they are currently selling a "failed product". The evidence for this is that their customers are "voting with their eyes and dollars". They recognized that this existing, failed product model is one in which the story being reported almost always ends with the description of the problem. It doesn't go to the next step... to the "end of the story".
This group was very responsible about the current reality of journalism. Rather than thinking "all we need to do is find better ways to fund what we're already doing" (as if their product cannot not be improved), they looked at what they are selling with a critical eye and saw the potential to develop a "Blue Ocean Strategy" for their profession that goes beyond what their customers normally get.. to go beyond what their customers think they can have.. beyond what their customers are asking for (at least the majority of customers)... to go from reporting on problems to reporting on problems AND how they are being solved.
In addition to seeing the appropriateness of going "beyond problem reporting... to problem and solution reporting", this group envisioned expanding the services their businesses deliver on-line (and possibly also out in the "off line" world) to include facilitating the honest, open, and transparent search for solutions. They discussed examples they were aware of in which their companies had helped convene groups for various reasons in the past, even as those instances were not the main stream nature of the reporting being done by their organizations. They came up with the image of a "block party" in search of solutions, to signify that the process of uncovering root causes (through the use of expert researchers, I think.. but also community dialog ) and developing solutions would be done in a spirit of fun.
From a "what constitutes a well-written story" perspective, the group recognized that news stories must contain an element of tension... and that this tension usually comes from the element of conflict that is in the story. The group realized that stories about solutions, not just problems, could also contain tension when they told how various obstacles were overcome in the process of developing the solutions.
The commitments on the part of this session's participants to use this new business model were not recorded. I don't think they all got to that point in their thinking. However, they agreed that they wanted this conversation to continue and agreed that they should all receive each other's email addresses to help facilitate that process. By "CC'ing" the entire participant list, I am giving each of them the contact information for the whole group... in addition to giving them easy access to these notes for future use and / or comment. (I may have missed something or miss-stated something and am open to correction.)
Here is the summary of the session, as recorded on the newsprint which was posted on the conference wall...
BLUE OCEAN STRATEGY BUSINESS STRATEGY
VISION: Hopeful but skeptical analysis of problems and their solutions
MISSION: Journalism reports on and helps facilitate solutions-seeking "Block Parties"
- Hype Free Zone (Show what's working and what's not)
- Story tension comes from overcoming obstacles (not "Gotcha Journalism")
- Study root causes so that solutions target disease, not symptoms
- Involve readers in search for solutions
What is the Blue Ocean? It's going from reporting on problems to reporting on problems being solved! ... thereby giving our customers HOPE that society's "fires" can someday be put out.
What can we then have in a world that's no longer "on fire"? Hmmm....
End of report.