What kind of journalist can start his or her own news website?
The simple answer is “anyone,” of course. Fire up Blogger, and you are there. But which journalists will be able to build a site that grows into financial success and stability, one that secures an enduring source of funding, whether it be advertising or non-profit support?
That class of individuals, alas, is much smaller.
Some colleagues and I were talking yesterday about how to identify potential journalist entrepreneurs. The last folks on that list, I said, would be the “team players” whom corporate managers love to put in charge of important new projects.
Successful entrepreneurs bring something new to the market, whether it be a new product, new approach or simply a new promotion. They challenge existing market options. They are, therefore, by definition, not “team players,” but team challengers, destabilizers or ever destroyers.
But when technology upsets monopolies or oligopolies, as the Web did with local information markets, those established businesses need a healthy does of creative insubordination, to help them learn how to compete.
Unfortunately, most successful institutions became successful because they evolved to employ and promote individuals who did things the corporate way. Market changes, unfortunately for them, is Darwin’s revenge. The workplace natural selection process that made great corporate employees leaves the organization unlikely to accommodate, much less promote, the very people the organization will need to adapt to the change, and survive.
And that’s why my Facebook and LinkedIn lists are filled with great people who can build great Web communities, while many newspaper companies are heading for the corporate graveyard.
The industry’s recent orgy of layoffs, while helping the bottom line in the short term, only make the problem worse. The best “team players” are the ones kept, and they are charged with doing even more traditional corporate work – more beats to cover, more Flash packages to build – with even less time to brainstorm ways to break away from the old rules of doing things.
So here is what I give thanks for, as we take a short break for the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States: Creative insubordination. And the bosses who not only tolerate it, but encourage and reward it, as well.
To heck with the old ways of doing things. Let’s try something new.