Periodically, NuLeadership Revolution discusses emerging trends with an industry expert. We are happy to talk with Caesar Andrews this week.
Tell our audience a little about yourself.
My current adventure is in journalism education. Teaching ethics, writing and editing courses. Most recently at the University of Nevada, Reno. My transition to the classroom follows years of work in newsrooms.
How did you start your career in this industry?
Interest in news goes back to high school. I majored in journalism at Grambling State University in Louisiana, with many hours spent working on the campus newspaper – great experience.
When first hired as a staff writer in Cocoa, Fla., I figured I would report for a few years, then move on to some other field of interest. Well, “a few years” turned into about 30 with the same company.
I did not start out feeling journalism was some kind of lifelong destination for me. But I ended up loving the work and the challenges (most days) and the many ways journalists get to witness so much of the world.
Discuss your experience working in your industry.
I was fortunate to work with many talented people. I was fortunate to be part of newsrooms covering major events –launch of the first space shuttles, national political conventions, the Sept. 11 attacks, sports championships, and more. I likewise appreciated the impact of covering local community news.
I was able to work in markets big and small, from a weekly in Florida, where I was first promoted to manager, to the start-up staff at the national daily USA TODAY.
Other career stops were Lansdale, Pa., suburban New York, a news bureau in Washington, D.C., and Michigan, where I completed my Gannett Co. career in 2008 as executive editor of the Detroit Free Press.
I enjoyed the improvisation found in newsrooms. Even during calm periods, breaking news was always on the verge of happening at any moment. A major project or something small but meaningful was always working its way toward publication.
Journalism is a great match for those with an appetite for constant learning. Lessons can be found all over. From sources. From an often critical public. From many wise souls who populate newsrooms.
And certainly from mistakes – the most painful ones can end up making you stronger. Even the knuckleheads encountered can play an educational role. An awful lot can be learned by observing what not to say, what not to do, and how not to be.
What are some industry challenges over the next several years?
For traditional news media gatekeepers, the old iron grip on access to information and on steady growth in ad dollars is gone. For most consumers, unending streams of words, images, audio and video on almost any conceivable topic are just a click away.
Large portions of this information come from providers who do not label themselves professional journalists. But the impact on those who are journalists is unmistakable.
News organizations as well as individual news professionals are forced to sharpen their sense of purpose. The smart ones concentrate on making what they offer even more distinct. They specialize in content that extends beyond what readers, viewers and listeners can easily get elsewhere.
Mastering the right delivery technology is one challenge, as more and more people bypass printed news pages and traditional network newscasts.
Managing the clash of company motivations is another big challenge. Serving the civic good AND making a profit that sustains the business have to be reconciled.
Tension between noble purpose and profit margins is not new, just more painfully apparent in this period of economic turmoil for traditional media.
What steps are market leaders in your field doing to address these problems to ensure sustained success?
Media companies are fiercely rethinking how to thrive under new rules of the road. Not all will survive, as is the case in other fields disrupted by massive shifts in revenue, technology and other marketplace fundamentals. But there is no shortage of initiatives:
- Every serious media organization is rewriting strategies. They are rethinking news content for digital users, refining their pitches to advertisers, and pushing to charge users for information consumed online.
- Newsrooms are seeking workers who help identify and connect with targeted audiences. The best job applicants come armed with digital awareness.
- Media organizations are consolidating, collaborating and remaking themselves in ways unimaginable not long ago. This is all driven by the need to reconsider traditional boundaries, especially as audiences, and therefore advertisers, dramatically change their patterns of media consumption.
- Newsrooms are making use of more citizen contributors. Modern consumers expect wide-ranging interaction through media, not just old-style, one-way presentation of news. Citizens’ blogs, reviews, commentary and ubiquitous public comments online have altered the community conversation.
What tips would you give individuals interested in getting into your industry as a new prospective employee?
Treat development of skills as if mining for gold. Place high value on curiosity.
Prepare to take on different opportunities, whether with established companies, or innovative start-ups, or as a freelancer, or in some other customized role you choose to create.
Any additional insight you would like to discuss?
The finest journalists hold on to some timeless principles that do not go out of style. They tell compelling stories that ought to be told. They practice the art of personal credibility.
Please share your comments with this industry leader.
(c) 2012 by Dr. Daryl D. Green
Caesar Andrews is a visiting professor in the Reynolds School of Journalism, University of Nevada, Reno. He holds the Paul A. Leonard Distinguished Visiting Chair for Ethics and Writing in Journalism at UNR.
Previous visiting professorships were completed at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., Arizona State University, Phoenix, and at his alma mater, Grambling State University, Grambling, La.
Andrews worked as a senior editor for the Gannett Co. for nearly 30 years, most recently at the Detroit Free Press and previously at newsrooms in Washington, D.C., New York, Pennsylvania and Florida. He is a former president of the Associated Press Managing Editors and was an officer in the American Society of Newspaper Editors.
He serves on the boards of directors for the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and for the Student Press Law Center.