My imaginary monologue with journalism leaders

Attending the Online News Association conference is a must for anyone who wants to see what’s what in Web journalism. Great people, great conversations… I had an incredible blast, but one morning I woke up and had to spit out the blog post below.

To be honest, this one was more for me…. This is something I’ve been dealing with nearly my entire Web journalism career. I had to get it out of my system.

I didn’t think I’d post it, but I added it to my blog… hoping no one would notice. But a few people did and their reactions encouraged me to own this… so, I’m posting it here.

Please tell me your thoughts and reactions… good and bad:

This morning, I woke up with the monologue I would tell an Executive Editor or Publisher or top decision maker at a news organization if I were ever asked my vision on running a newsroom.

I’d first start by explaining to them that my decision making process, while you may think is tech focused, is driven first and foremost by the love of the community and the complete belief that journalism serves and empowers that community by informing it.

Then I’d share that I’ve obsessively thought about the different fronts of “development” I would embark on if I ran the show — content, tools/technology and revenue — these different ideas in my head, but all in the name of journalism.

I’d naturally get so excited that I would start sketching each one of those categories on a napkin, trying to explain to the person what is in my head.

But then I’d stop, perhaps mid-sentence, put my pen down, look the person in the eye and say:

Look, the biggest obstacle in journalism right now isn’t whether people trust “us” or not. It’s not even the revenue crisis we are all facing and feeling every day.

The biggest obstacle is… you.

[Awkward pause]

Then, if the person hasn’t left the table, I’d say:

I can continue trying to explain these concepts to you, draw my little pictures, employ my weird (often pop-culture drenched) analogies… all to get you closer to understanding these concepts.

Or, you can just admit (and hopefully be okay with) the very strong possibility that you may never really understand.

But, also, realize that it’s not about you… it’s not about you understanding.

That spending time on trying to have you understand, so you can approve, has delayed and hurt us for SO MANY YEARS. We can’t afford that time any more.

Please know that you have a very important role here, but trying to be the visionary when you don’t understand is not that role.

Take that leap of faith by putting your trust in the people who are just as passionate, concerned, obsessed about journalism as you are… trust those “Web people.”

You see, I’d say, that for each category I described, there are amazing Web journalists doing work that is changing our industry, but leadership hasn’t noticed, let alone appreciated it.

In fact, these amazing people are on your staff right now. But, because you don’t understand or approve it, you don’t see it.

These people are getting heart-broken by the missed opportunities and your bad decisions. Don’t buy that vendor’s product, especially if it is a CMS! Stop getting obsessed with the buzzwords you hear at conferences! Stop listening to those hype-machine, journo pundits offering bad advice!

Stop it.

Because if you don’t, all I’m doing is drawing on a napkin… writing a Jerry Maguire-style blog post… all we’re doing is just talking. Spending time and energy on you and not on the community.

Stop it. And take that leap… with us.

Robert Hernandez is a Web Journalism professor at USC Annenberg and co-creator of #wjchat, a weekly chat for Web Journalists held on Twitter. You can contact him by e-mail ([email protected]) or through Twitter (@webjournalist). Yes, he’s a tech/journo geek.

About Robert Hernandez

Robert Hernandez, aka WebJournalist, is an assistant professor at USC Annenberg. Hernandez has been working in Web journalism for more than a decade. He has worked for,,, La Prensa Gr


  1. says:

    Interesting, but slight simplification of terms don’t you think?

    The web has undoubtedly brought a wealth of new opportunities – content-wise. But can that necessarily be said for the business side of things? Journalism should, after all, be run as a business. If it isn’t making money it doesn’t matter how good the journalism is. By touting ‘web people’ as the people that executives need to put their faith in is simplistic…innovative people have to come together across all departments including business, marketing, content production and executives.

  2. says:

    Having worked in media and out, this is true of almost any org that is of a certain size or age. Classic innovator’s dilemma, and right on target.