Wick Communications

Running toward the digital age

In Online media on February 26, 2015 at 2:55 pm
Dean Baquet of The New York Times. Todd Heisler / New York Times

New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet made an important symbolic change. Todd Heisler / New York Times

Last week brought two seminal moments in the long arc of this thing we call journalism. One occurred at the New York Times, the other within Wick Communications.

First, let’s talk about that Manhattan daily. Executive Editor Dean Baquet announced that the newspaper – excuse me, news organization – was making a “small but significant step in our digital transformation.” The change? Essentially, the newsroom desks will no longer pitch stories for Page 1 of the print newspaper, but rather for prime digital space.

He created “Dean’s List” or what amounts to the day’s tops stories. Those that make the list will get most prominent play across the organization’s digital platforms. One assumes somewhere in there some ink-stained wretch will continue to plop these great stories into the next day’s print product, but that won’t be the focus of the vigorous debate that has always culminated in the newspaper of record.

“It’s worth noting that the tradition of selecting Page 1 stories under the old system has long made The Times distinctive,” Baquet says in his memo to staff. “We are seeking to preserve the rigor of this process, but update it for the digital age. Desks will compete for the best digital, rather than print, real estate…”

Meanwhile, on the same day, Wick publishers and directors met over conference call to discuss a variety of issues. One of them was the creation of the company’s Digital Task Force. In an email to task force members, Regional Publisher Randy Rickman wrote, “Let’s start at the beginning of what we do, what we provide based on the needs of our audience and customers. At the end of the day we serve our community of advertisers and audience. Whether it’s print, digital or anything else that comes along, our strategy must start and end with who we serve. …”

The task force will focus both on specific products that will help us reach a digital audience now and, more generally, consider the company’s future direction with respect to reach, engagement and other Internet possibilities. The group includes publishers, sales and technology professionals, and yours truly. Personally, it may be the most exciting charge of my journalism career.

I was being somewhat facetious in comparing Wick journalism with that of the New York Times. But only a little bit. We compete for the same eyeballs and our mutual readers have only so much time in the day. We are both learning on the fly in the digital world. Each organization is venturing away from what is comfortable and toward the edge of what is known.

These are interesting times, to say the least. Let’s move forward through them.

Clay

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