I have worked with people who feel the medium in which they tell their stories is their identity.
There is nothing wrong with this viewpoint.
It just has a limited lifespan these days,
It was once the case that you could spend your career in one medium, be it print, television or radio. You were born a newspaperman, and you died a newspaper man.
The giants of print ruled the news world like the tyrant lizard king ruled the Cretaceous Period. And this is not to say that the great news people are going extinct, it’s to say that much like T.Rex, they are facing an extinction event.
Rapid evolution, which still is more of a mythological ideology than a practice, is the only way that news can survive this cataclysm.
Information is slopping over the news wall like an overflowing toilet these days. The population is increasing, everything is going viral. Information is omnipresent.
In an effort to fill what is perceived to be a growing news hole, media organizations and journalists are tying one hand behind their back and jumping into the fray in an effort to inform an already over-informed populace.
And yet the audience with a billion information choices lacks for real content. When a hobbyist Tweeting the local police scanner inadvertently breaks the news, media organizations scramble for the truth like carrion vultures on a carcass. And an already-informed populace goes about their busy lives. A journalist gets laid off, and another devil gets its horns. Melodramatic much?
One of my favorite journalists, G.K. Chesterton, once wrote: “A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.”
As a media organization, you can be just another voice in the cacophony, or you can stand out like a salmon jumping through a wall of white water to clear a hurdle in the stream.
While too many are focusing on finding a new way to make money out of journalism, too few are looking at new ways to do journalism to meet the needs of the average viewer, listener, reader.
They are becoming heavier, louder, more expensive and less indispensable today.
But Mitt Romney is wrong. Corporations are not people. Media companies are not people. To turn a ship of that size, a massive enterprise made up of thousands of individual entities, into something indispensable is impossible on a grand scale.
Becoming indispensable today is on the micro level, not the macro level. It requires an infection that transforms one journalist at a time. Building a digital empire cannot be achieved without digital building blocks.
Indispensability depends on individual transformation of each element of a media company. Producers, editors, writers, directors, reporters, anchors, hosts, copy editors, designers, photographers and artists each need to jump into the digital stream building their own tool sets and therefore contributing to the flow.
Thus connected, a media outlet may not only plug in to the digital mainframe, they may innovate within the construct as well as outside of it.
If only a handful of people are digitally trained, they act as a support mechanism that will eventually have to break off to survive.
True digital integration can only be achieved when the entire company is infected, at which point shoaling becomes possible. This is the art of coordinated movement among a large group of fish with little to no obvious communication.
This flexibility and nimbleness is what will allow a news organization to become completely responsive, innovative and ultimately indispensable.