Many news organizations have bonus plans for newsroom personnel called MBOs (MBA speak for Manage by Objective). The idea is to reward people for doing work that helps advance the company’s strategic goals.
Is there any higher strategic need for news organizations today than becoming more digital savvy?
I suspect there are still too many non-wired journalists in most US newsrooms. Either out of fear, indifference or hubris, too many reporters and editors resist using the Internet for anything beyond the occasional Google search (and heaven forbid they ever click a search result link to Wikipedia) and a daily dose of Romenesko (and heaven forbid if you call him what he is, a blogger).
That just isn’t acceptable.
So to help newsroom managers advance the digital literacy of their organizations, I offer the following MBO plan. I recommend readers pass this along to the top editors at their newspapers. And for non-wired journalists ambitious enough to pursue their own MBO paths, I’ll offer a reward myself (strict rules and details at the bottom of this post).
- Become a blogger. Start with a favorite topic. For example, if you’re a baseball fan, start with baseball. Find all of the baseball-related blogs you can and become a regular reader of five or six of the best of these blogs. Participate — leave comments; follow links. After three months of blog reading, start your own blog on that topic. Try to post daily for at least six months. For blog topics, avoid anything related to your beat or politics. First, you need to blog about something you are passionate about; second, there are too many political bloggers already (accept maybe for local politics, if you see that need in your community and it won’t conflict with your day job).
- Buy a small digital camera that can take both stills and video. Open an account with a photo sharing site such as Flickr or Buzznet. Take photos and post them. If necessary, use some online tutorials for digital photography. (NOTE: If company will buy you this camera, great, but if not, remember you have a responsibility to invest in your own career.)
- With the same camera, make at least three videos. Use the free video editing software that comes with your computer and edit those videos. Post them to YouTube and at least one other video sharing site. There are plenty of online tutorials for shooting and editing video. Your goal here isn’t to make great video, just to learn what is involved in making video so you have the capability in your online journalism tool bag.
- Related to video, spend at least two hours a week for six weeks on YouTube. Search for topics that interest you and then follow the trails where they lead. Pay attention to the daily most popular and see what other people are watching. Be sure to watch both amateur and professional video.
- Join a social networking site. Every professional should have a profile on LinkedIn, so make sure you do, also. Facebook has been hot in 2007, but I think you’ll get more out of MySpace, which still remains popular with your future readers. You will get more DIY (the backbone of modern media) experience with MySpace, if you take full advantage of the site features (which, admittedly, I have not). Do Facebook, too, but don’t neglect MySpace.
- Use social bookmarking. Set up del.icio.us for yourself and use it every day. Learn about tags. Check out Digg and Mixx and similar sites. If you can, get into Scott Karp’s Publish2 beta.
- Start using RSS. Use RSS to keep up with the news of the day and the blogs you are now reading every day. Make sure your blog has an RSS feed. Here’s Marc Glaser’s guide to RSS.
- If your current mobile phone doesn’t handle SMS (text messaging), get one that does. SMS works best when you have friends who text, so figure out who those friends are (by now, you have them). For neophytes and gray hairs, a phone with a QWERTY keyboard (Treo, or iPhone) works best. Blackberrys aren’t great SMS handhelds because they mix SMS and e-mail together.
- Learn to twitter. I’m not a big Twitter user myself, but Ryan Sholin and Jack Lail swear by it. I think there is something to be said for learning how this technology may change information dissemination.
- Create a Google Map mashup. If you don’t know what those are, google it. If you don’t know what to do or where to start, google it (hint: or you can search this site). There are plenty of tutorials available. It’s easy. All you need is a spreadsheet with appropriate data and enough smarts to follow step-by-step directions.
- After you’ve done these ten things, document what you’ve learned — write something, such as an essay to your editor or a blog post. Discuss how technology has changed media, and follow the string of where that change might lead. What will your job be like in 10 years? What will media be like in five? How will news reach young readers in a generation? Tomorrow?
For those of you who work for a newsroom that doesn’t offer an MBO, or you’re not being included in the MBO program this year (maybe because your editor perceives you as too stuck in the past), I’m here to help.
I will give a $100 Amazon gift certificate to one journalist who completes all of the objectives. Here’s the rules:
- You must today be a non-wired journalist (which probably means a well meaning friend passed the link to this post along to you, because you, yourself, don’t normally read blogs). As a non-wired journalist, you only use the Internet for e-mail and a little web surfing, but not much else. You have yet to do anything along the lines outlined above.
- To be eligible, you must first send me an e-mail (howardowens at gmail dot com) and tell me about your current level of non-wiredness. To help confirm your position, you will need to CC your immediate supervisor at his or her work address (for this exercise to be meaningful, it probably helps if you have your boss’s support, anyway).
- You must be the first among the eligible participants to complete all of the objectives, and they must be completed in 2008.
- Part of being online is to be public and transparent about who you are and what you’re doing, so when you nominate yourself to participate, expect me to post your name and news affiliation in a blog post. Our readers should be able to follow your progress. Of course, there’s some advantages for you — it’s a great career move to be known as a learner; and the people who read this blog are the kind of people who would be happy to help you as needed; and when you have your own blog, you’ll be grateful for the links. And there’s no shame in admitting it’s time for you to go digital — you’re not alone.
For supervisors who use this post to fashion an in-house MBO program, it would be great to hear from you, especially as the program progresses, so we can all learn from the experience.