Lee Abrams isn’t breaking new ground, but at least he’s getting attention

I can think of some very good ideas for brining in people from outside the newspaper industry to help us save ourselves:

  • Outside perspective means a fresh look at our problems;
  • That other industry perspective might mean new ideas that haven’t been tried in our industry yet;
  • Somebody who has been successful in one industry is probably a very creative thinker and can really help us brainstorm;
  • The new person doesn’t know our sacred cows, or isn’t afraid of them — he or she can really blow things up and start over.

So it should be a good thing that Sam Zell brought Lee Abrams into Tribune, right?

Here’s what we get from Abrams: 15 trite ideas that have been espoused and debated in the industry for more than a decade. If there’s a fresh, significant thought in there, I can’t find it.

The sad things is, though, there are probably a lot of journalist who might find the whole memo radical and scary.  And maybe that’s the only reason the Abrams memo is important at all — not that it’s new, but that Abrams has a loud enough voice to be heard over the complaints of change resisters in newsrooms across the land.

5 thoughts on “Lee Abrams isn’t breaking new ground, but at least he’s getting attention

  1. Well, when you consider his background in radio, yes. But I didn’t jump on him about that because, frankly, when it comes to the general public, he may be right. I long ago learned a lot of people don’t know what we often assume that they know. He should know, but that doesn’t mean Aunt Mable knows.

  2. Hi Howard, you won’t believe the concern I had that you’d be forever hacked! I truly appreciate your blog, and I hope you keep it going.

    Some nits to pick:

    — I would amend your statement about registration as “registration doesn’t stifle participation; it does throttle comments.” We’ve gone from the Wild West to registration (dictated as an all or nothing by our CMS) and that is our experience.

    — Just because Abrams is forwarding old notions (to you) does not invalidate his propositions. You undercut your own argument by pointing out that most newspapers have failed — and continue to fail — in implementing and acting on these concepts you deem “trite.”

    From my vantage, virtually all management and organizational dicta are simply the same old stuff in a new box, and audience building, relevance-enhancing strategies can always be reduced to core concepts sharing a common thread. But what promotes action? What resonates? What finally gets the attention of the agenda setters? (Or your staff?)

    In the case of the vast majority of the newspaper business, it took a significant bleeding from the ears.

    — Let’s narrow down the expertise a successful businessperson would bring to a newspaper. Here’s what I would look for: Did their career deal with entreprenurial creativity (as in the best reporters)? Did they sell an unproven product? Are they an originator or a manager?

    I’ve never learned anything from a consultant (that may say more about me than them), but plenty from colleagues.

    — Most of the time I think the solutions are obvious, just lacking the necessary sacrifice (courage?) to implement them.

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