On February 1, 2010 I took up the post of Chief Executive Officer of The Journal Register Company.
I had been recruited to the board of directors in August 2009 after the Company had successfully exited Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. The Journal Register Company, a bloated amalgamation of multiple acquisitions and badly run assets with almost no investment in new media platforms, had become a poster child for what ails the newspaper industry.
Journal Register Company counts its newspaper and online products in the hundreds, its employees in the thousands and its revenue in the hundreds of millions. And it is profitable.
Its core mission – journalism – is enshrined in the Constitution. At least one of its products can trace its lineage to one founding father – Benjamin Franklin. Another product was around early enough to have published George Washington’s obituary. But none of that storied history or its hundreds of millions in revenues will guarantee JRC a future unless it transforms itself from a newspaper company to a true multi-platform news and information company.
I am a career newspaper man. This blog will be my account of how we, the employees of Journal Register Company, make the neccessary changes to ensure our Company’s future. By sharing publicly our actions I hope we can spark true debate in our Company on what we are doing right and wrong and extend that debate to include the public and the newspaper industry at large.
This will be a true Company-wide effort. One of my first acts was to announce the establishment of a profit-sharing plan for all employees. If the Company wins, the Employees win. We will all win.
We have already issued Flip video cameras to all of our reporters as a symbol of our new commitment to multiple platforms and the necessary investments in technology and training to bring our Company into the future. We might be the first newspaper company anywhere to have issued Flip cameras to all reporters. All publishers, editors and sales directors have been given copies of Jeff Jarvis’ book What Would Google Do? Our Company and the newspaper industry have to start thinking differentlyabout how we conduct business. In the next few weeks we will announce the members of an Advisory Board. Their job will be to push us hard on our thinking and help us craft new ideas.
The newspaper industry can be a closed shop. This blog will be one of our examples, along with the Advisory Board and other efforts, to bring the outside in to the Journal Register Company. I urge all who are interested to follow what we do and comment. Below you will find my first address to the Company employees. Please read and tell me what you think.
John Paton Address To Journal Register Company Employees:
|Saturday, 06 February 2010|
| Folks,For the last four days, which are my first four days on the job as CEO, I have spoke and met with, in small groups and in one-on-one meetings, to about 100 of our 3,100 fellow employees. At a group session of our publishers along with some advertising directors and editors I addressed the change I believe must happen to transform our newspaper company into a true multi-media company committed to providing the communities we serve with the very best local journalism.I think accountability journalism is threatened in this country as newspapers struggle to find their way to a profitable future. And I think that threatens this country because we provide some of the key checks and balances in our communities. What we do is important and what we do is worth saving. And that means we have to change.
For all of the challenges we face I also believe these are some of the most exciting times to be in the business of local journalism.
New technologies and seismic developments such as social media are, if we are an open and questing company, allowing us to experiment in ways to truly participate with the audience. By opening ourselves up to ideas and partnerships within our communities and those companies that are harnessing technology to both create and distribute information, we can participate with the audience in ways we have never done before. And we can become better providers of local journalism.
And that is our goal – to become better providers of accountability local journalism that informs and provides for our communities the fuel to debate matters of importance. That doesn’t mean we are going to forget to have fun or bask in the glory of a local team winning the State championship but it does mean we will make accountability journalism and serving the community the focus of everything we do.
The following slides, presented at my meeting with our publishers and editors, outline some of my thoughts on how we become that company.
Already, we have taken steps to make the necessary changes. On Monday, we announced:
- We will have Flip HD video cameras in the hands of every one of our reporters within 30 days. The first 50 went out on Monday.
- Upgrade and enhance our I.T. infrastructure so that our employees can fully participate in the new news ecology
- The establishment of Community Journalism Media Labs initially in 6 of our communities. We are going to bring the outside world in to our company and work with entrepreneurial journalists. We will establish both content and sales arrangements with these local entrepreneurs to increase our coverage, audience and sales to our mutual benefit.
We also announced we are establishing an Advisory Board to help us think better about the challenges facing journalists. We will work with the Advisory Board to identify the necessary experiments we will need to try to better participate with the audience in the creation and consumption of local news.
If we do this right we will become a company of ideas where all employees and our communities debate what’s best for our future. And preserve our cherished role of providing checks and balances.
And because I believe if we do this right we will become a much more vibrant and profitable company with a dynamic future, I want to make sure all employees share in that future. To that end, we announced on Tuesday the establishment of a profit sharing plan for all employees.
If the company wins our employees win. We will all win.
It is my hope this presentation is just the first step in a dialogue not only with you but also with our communities and those in the wider media world who also care that we find a way to preserve and enhance the future of accountability journalism.
So please have a read and tell me what you think. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
I look forward to hearing from you.