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Holt: Integration and innovation are key

February 22, 2012

Photo by Kati Maseman, University of Illinois-Springfield

Sarah Schneider
Southern Illinois University-Carbondale

In a changing industry, Margaret Holt reminded a group of commercial and student newspaper editors that everyday at a newspaper has to be a process of reinvention.

Holt, the standards editor of the Chicago Tribune, said that after working in newsrooms for 40 years, she has learned it takes a strong willed person to start over new every day, but with a team full of those kind of people it is possible.

She said teamwork and morale are key to changing an industry that has to be changed.

“We have to make peace with change,” Holt said.

She said amidst filling for bankruptcy in 2008 the new management at the Tribune was dedicated to changing the culture of the newspaper. She said this meant ensuring people’s ideas were being heard and having regular meetings with the departments.

Setting expectations for people and then checking up to make sure it actually happened is another example Holt used to make people know you care about their work. She said one of her previous editors always said to “expect and inspect.”

“I have gone a long way in my career by remembering that,” she said.

Holt said being a bridge between different departments such as advertising and marketing could make a considerable change for newspapers.

Holt distributed handouts during her presentation, one of which was titled, “Unfreezing the middle, seeing a different innovating prospective.” The document suggests there is a difference between radically changing the paper and taking progressive steps towards change.

“Have the courage to listen to other ideas,” she said. “You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room.”

During the session Holt also acknowledged the college students in attendance that she said might be asking “Is there a future in this business for me?”

“And the answer is yes there is. Journalism matters,” she said.

Even when the future of the newspaper industry does not look bright she said not to listen to those with “toxic” mentalities of the business.

Holt said it is ironic that while things are looking bad for newspapers, it is a time for great creativity.

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