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7 steps to change in the newsroom

February 14, 2010

Mizell Stewart III shows off his video camera while discussing change. Photo by Audrey Sawyer

By Emily Steele

While many in the media are mourning the good ol’ days, the steps to grieving may also be the steps to change.

Mizell Stewart III, editor of The Evansville Courier-Press presented the program My Newsroom’s Not the Same any More: Change Management 2010 and Beyond.

Stewart applied the seven stages of grief to change in the news room.

“Letting go of what you used to be is like dealing with a death in the family,” Stewart said.

The seven steps are: shock/disbelief, denial, bargaining, guilt, anger, depression and acceptance and hope.

Stewart began by asking what the audience missed about the good old days in the newsroom, some of the responses were being care free, being computer free and when calling someone they were able to get a real person and not a voicemail

Now the newsroom and the people along with it have had to adapt.

“At its root, change is about people,” Stewart said.

In an age where cameras, cell phones, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and iPhone many reporters and editors feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

One common complaint is that a reporter cannot take notes and shoot video at the same time. But Stewart said change in the newsroom is inevitable and the time has come.

“When you lose 40 percent of revenue, you don’t have time for incremental change,” Stewart said.

For his own staff at The Evansville Courier-Press Stewart encourages everyone to have at least the basic knowledge of how to write a story, take a photo and edit video, including himself.

“More often than not, we have to start with our own before we have an influence on anyone else,” Stewart said. “Don’t ask staff to do what we can’t.”

Most of the change involves the adaptation of technology.

“We’re planting our own feet firmly in technology,” Stewart said. “That’s going to be our strategy that’s going to be our future.”

Key points made about change in the newsroom:

What kind of change is it:

organization vs. subsystem

transformational vs. incremental

remedial vs. development

planned vs. unplanned

Managing change:

communication: candor, frequency, transparent

preparation: expectations, training

execution: engagement, conversation, adjustment

Communicating change:

gather information

confront rumors

share everything you can

be an advocate for your staff

communicate early and often, include staff and community

Preparing for change

take the time to develop clear written expectations

train, train and train again

the combination of clear expectations and focused training provides reassurance “We’ll get through this”

Making change happen

build allies, engage key newsroom players

don’t with draw, be visible and stay in the mix

Make adjustments

help people build confidence, skills, change course if necessary

don’t think yourself into an action, turn action into the thought

behaviors are just beliefs turned into action.

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