Mario García: The pain of transformation begins with the people involved

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It is almost like a formula: in my experience, the newsrooms where transformation happens faster and more efficiently usually have new hires in high positions involved.That is why I am not at all surprised to read of the great things happening at the The Dallas Morning News.

It's taken two years for The Dallas Morning News to undergo a massive transformational process that has made it evolve from a print-focused legacy media organization into one that thinks digital first.

And, as one would suspect, the reorganization process began with the arrival of a new editor, Mike Wilson. With Wilson, things began to happen. He was the first new editor hired from the outside in 35 years.

After getting to know the team, he invited two dozen people from across the newsroom - ranging from managers to interns - to build a plan for the future of the DMN with the help of a consulting group.

Wilson divided the initial transformational project into three areas, research on content, workflow and technology, and roles and skills needed in the newsroom.

Often, it is the new editor from the outside who can make this degree of transformation and disruption positive, and The Dallas Morning News experience is no exception.

The key transformational words

I like all these words as related to The Dallas Morning News project:

obsessions

buyouts

replacements

new hires

tumultous time

metrics

These words are representative of what one encounters in any effective transformation of a print-centric newsroom that aims for an evolution to digital.

Obsessions - I often cite passion as a key element. I urge my teams to look for and to identify those members of the newsroom who have the passion and desire for change. Usually there are many who do. Those are the engines to push projects forth.

Buyouts - these are those heaven-delivered and very necessary tools to eliminate from the mix anyone who does not feel up to transformation and disruption. No real transformation can take place without some buyouts with the necessary good byes to those who have served well but who simply don't fit into the new realities of a multiplatform media world. Those who can only play one instrument should not inhabit in a media quintet newsroom. Period.

(I admire those who come to terms with their own limitations and opt for a buyout).

Replacements - As part of the digital transformation process, it is necessary to scrap some positions and to create new ones . At The Dallas Morning News, many staffers were asked to re apply for positions, allowing a clean slate of candidates and of evaluations of skills.

New hires - The best newsroom transformation MUST have new hires, the new blood that pours into the place, shakes it a little and leads to positive disruption.

Tumultous time - And don't let anyone tell you that a period of serious/effective transformation and positive disruption will be easy. It is a tumultous time of some upheaval, deep soul searching for everyone involved, and, alas, the hope that an established brand, such as The Dallas Morning News will live for years to come.

Metrics - Concerned with audience engagement and knowing more about how content is received, the execs of The Dallas Morning News partnered with the American Press Institute, and used "Metrics for News" to meta-tag stories in order to be able to better compare their performance.

I will keep an eye on The Dallas Morning News for sure to see how this iconic and respected regional newspaper in one of America's most vibrant and important cities, makes the transition following what appears to be a textbook case of a transformation.

• From The Mario Blog with permission

Of related interest: Dallas Morning News parent completes acquisition of digital marketing firms

https://www.dallasnews.com/business/the-dallas-morning-news/2017/05/03/dallas-morning-news-parent-completes-acquisition-digital-marketing-firms

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