Posted on January 11, 2008
No room for Web newbies?
Paul Conley is on a rampage with a series of posts based on the idea of digging a “fighting hole” (which many of us would call a foxhole). He’s writing about B2B journalism, but most of what he says applies equally well to daily newspaper journalism.
He’s saying employers should not offer any training in Web journalism.
His reasoning — stay with me here — is that people who will not train themselves are no asset to your newsroom.
It’s the kind of post that gets me feeling very conflicted. One part of me is thinking, “No, no, Paul, that’s terrible!” But another part is thinking, “He’s right, he’s absolutely right.”
It also reminded me of a column Keith Jenkins (multimedia director at The Washington Post) wrote one year ago:
If we are to survive as news organizations, survival will have to be charted by people who live in the new world, rather than by people who view the Web as either a threat or a tool to gain temporary power in a mortally wounded industry. New Media, Web 2.0, or whatever you want to call it, is powered by the people for the people. Join them or be ignored.
… we should be inventing this new world with people who already populate it. Real bloggers, photobloggers and vloggers — embrace them and learn from them. Only then can we continue to be relevant.
But you can’t just fire everybody.
We cannot move backward to round up the stragglers and train them to fight. It’s too late to try to convince print journalists that the Web has value.
I repeat: You can’t just fire everybody.
I cannot teach the Web. No one can. Yet all of us who are part of the Web are learning the Web.
That’s where he really gets me. Because I know what he means. Sometimes I despair at how many young students we lead to the multimedia trough only to see them decline to drink. Sometimes I feel like the only ones who “get it” are the ones who already “got it” before we got them.
But then, once in a while, I have the wonderful experience of seeing a student who never “got it” come around to embrace the future, to welcome it wholeheartedly, arms spread wide to catch it. And I am reminded that there are still journalists out there who do not get it but who could, who would, if the right combination of circumstances befell them.
Maybe the right combination of circumstances lies in the newsroom itself — if only everyone were required to step up and pull their own weight on the online side. If the online staff were not ghetto-ized, stuffed into closets separate from the rest of the journalists, cloistered with advertising or some other nonsensical thing.
What needs to change in your newsroom to bring this about — to make everyone understand that they must all be digging the foxhole, together?