Wick Communications

Killing sacred cows for meatier work

In journalism on April 21, 2016 at 12:35 pm
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These were among the many questions program participants asked when we presented our challenge.

This week I had the honor and extreme privilege of participating in the JSK Stanford News Innovation Workshop. It is no exaggeration to say that I left more excited than I have ever been about my job and my opportunities as a journalist in 2016.

The program was competitive and all expenses were picked up by a grant from the Knight Foundation. Editors applied for inclusion by presenting a challenge they face, a challenge that could be vetted among peers over three days at Stanford. (The JSK Fellowships has a 50-year history at Stanford. In addition to hosting programs like this one, it invites fellows for year-long tenures and it’s a jaw-dropping opportunity. If you are interested, please ask me about it. Seriously.)

Wick Communications was granted a spot at the table along with top editors from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Seattle Times, the Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express-News, the Hearst Connecticut Media Group, the Dallas Morning News and the Associated Press. I told you it was an honor. I was also thrilled to be joined at the workshop by Green Valley News Editor Dan Shearer.

The Wick challenge?

Well, it started out as one thing and ended up something else after we worked it through. It began as, “How to structure shrinking newsrooms to best cover what our readers want and need while incorporating new tools?” After three days, it had morphed to, “How do we keep our best people fulfilled and maximize their best work while meeting shifting needs in our very different communities?”

There is a lot to unpack there, but let’s concentrate on one word for now: Fulfillment.

We all want to be fulfilled. It’s a complicated concept in some ways, but, for me anyway, fulfillment in the context of my job comes from doing meaningful work among colleagues that I consider friends. I want — no, I need — to do more of that. In a frank discussion with the news staff here in Half Moon Bay after the Stanford sessions, I admitted that I hadn’t been particularly fulfilled of late. It is no one’s fault but my own. So I’m opting to do something about it.

Participants in the workshop were extremely generous in helping Dan and I understand our issues and frame our questions. We learned many techniques for thinking more clearly. And we gave ourselves permission to think of things in a brand new way. One secret, we discovered, to doing more meaningful work is doing less less meaningful work. Dan and I began an exploration of what is indispensable in our day-to-day work and also what is dispensable. I can’t speak for Dan, but I will be giving up some sacred cows in order to eat more meat.

Trust me. You are about to hear a lot more about this whole thing. I just wanted to introduce the concept for now. Thank you for listening.

Clay

Correction: This version corrects a previous mischaracterization of the relationship between the JSK Fellowships and the Knight Foundation.

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