“Rebuilding the News”, How Did We Get Here and Why?

All great innovations come from an alchemy of the present *built* on the past. If you can tear it apart, see it from multiple perspectives, and observe the feedback loops that feed into the systems that drove you where you are currently, then you have a powerful tool.

That’s what makes C.W. Anderson’s “Rebuilding the News: Metropolitan Journalism in the Digital Age” important.

Far more than a “how the sausage is made” account of how things worked for a period of time (see the bravely open piece from “A Day in the Life of a Digital Editor, 2013″, by Alexis C. Madrigal in the Atlantic), or a historical record, it peels the onion on 2000-2010 newspaper media, and reveals the opportunities, stress, and strain of the time and lessons that can be derived from them.

I’ll have it on my bookshelf next to “The Innovator’s Dilemma”, since it seems to be so reflective of it, without intention of it.

You know, “How the Sausage is Made” is a terrible metaphor, one that I never heard until I worked at Philly.com.

In a conversation I talked about sharing the some of the decision making workflow (why do certain stories make it to the home page, how can something or someone influence that), with users of the site. When I brought up this idea, someone replied that “No one likes to see how the sausage is made.” There were nods to the wisdom of this assessment, and the conversation moved on.

Me? I can’t help but watch “How It’s Made” in marathon sessions where I melt into the couch. I like inside baseball knowledge, it gives me context into why things work the way they do, and how they came about.

I believe on a visceral level that when a group is attempting to do something “new”, and they refuse to even acknowledge the experience of the past, what you end up with is more of the same, or more of what took place further back in history. Sometimes that’s appropriate. Those lessons give you an advantage and a springboard to success. Sometimes those lessons can teach us what not to do.

That’s why I’m so optimistic about where we are now. There are a lot of lessons that are being put to practice by organizations and people all across Philly. That alchemy of past and present is in full swing like never before, with the belief you need to keep, that you can make things better.

Disclaimer, yes, I’m in this book. Philly Future is in this book. Norgs is in this book. So are many people who I respect and admire who have worked so hard over the past ten years, in a tumultuous line of work, that is important to our world, are in this book.

And part of me feels a little bit shamed for letting my participation in all this drop on the floor 7 years or so ago. But only a little since I wouldn’t trade these 7 years for anything. So, for some closure, I’m going to follow Chris Wink’s advice and ‘write that post’ sometime soon.

For more on the book:

Listen to a great interview with C.W. Anderson at newbooksincommunications.com.

Read Mathew Ingram at paidContent, “The biggest roadblock to media success? A traditional culture of journalistic hubris”

Buy it: “Rebuilding the News: Metropolitan Journalism in the Digital Age”