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Carnival of Journalism: Pick one thing to innovate

carnivalWell, it’s another edition of the Carnival of Journalism. After a couple of months hiatus, we’re back, hosted by Will Sullivan (aka the Journerdist). This month, the topic is:

What are small, incremental steps one can make to fuel change in their media organization?

(Yes, we’d all like to swing in our newsroom, lay some boot heels on chests, hoist the black flag and change everything by the end of business on Monday — but the reality is, that ain’t happening unless you have a couple buckets of cash to buy a paper of your choice and a rusty saber.) So what are some realistic, real-world examples of free (or cheap) ways you can help fuel change at your newsroom.

The first step one could take to fuel change in one’s media organization would be to pick something – just one thing – and offer to do it in addition to your regular duties.

If you’re a reporter, offer to start a blog, or edit audio snippets from your interviews, or create some Google maps, or a spreadsheet of contacts for your beat with Google Docs. Or track some of the local weblogs and follow leads for stories, making sure to give credit where credit is due.

If you’re a photographer, offer to do audio slideshows, or shoot some video. If you’re a copy editor, start studying SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and writing better web headlines.

If you’re a section editor, offer to take charge of posting to your section of the web site, or encourage your writers to gather hyperlinks for their stories, or create a wiki or weblog with links to useful resources about the online journalism world. Or spend an hour or two each week helping your staff understand the web and looking for good experiments to follow.

I first wrote about this concept in July, 2006, and it bears repeating here.

the last month has brought home one solid truth that is irrefutable: The pace of change happening in the media world right now is breathtaking. I leave the blogging environment for a couple of days and come back to find that 10 things have come up that are worthy of notice.And I like to consider myself somewhat “up-to-date” on things new media. I can imagine what this might seem like to someone who doesn’t spend several hours a week pouring over the Internet looking for material like this.

A couple of times, I almost got to the point where I was overwhelmed with the tsunami of change taking place.

But in the midst of these moments of panic, I re-learned something that would serve us all as we plot our courses into the future of news: If you can just do one thing … do one thing, and do it well.

We can’t allow ourselves to get so overwhelmed with the pace of change that we become immobilized by the sheer volume of change that is taking place.

Find one thing and resolve to start there for this school year. If you’re an adviser, this would be a good place to meet with your student leaders.

Close the door to the meeting room and ask the old Microsoft question: “Where do you want to go today?” Do it soon. Before you know it, the semester will begin and everyone will be too busy to start something new.

If you’re a student reading this, this would be a good place to set up a meeting with your adviser for a little advance planning and coordination.

Next semester, perhaps next year, you can move on to another new project. By then, hopefully, you’ll be proficient in the project you began this year.

Do one thing … and do it well.

If everyone on staff committed to do just one thing with their online presence, I think newspapers would move forward at a much faster clip. Following this year’s presidential campaign, one quote from Barack Obama struck me: “Change won’t come from the top down, but from the bottom up.”

And remember Ira Glass‘s advice: Your output will likely not match your taste when you begin, but you have to keep at it to perfect your skills.

And after you master that one thing, then move on to another, and master that.

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