Does your newsroom culture fit with your corporate culture?

By Peter Bale


New Zealand and the U.K.


Management guru Peter Drucker once said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” It became a mantra at Ford and is said to be still on the wall of its management war room. I take it to mean that no matter how cunning your plan, it’ll fail if the work culture isn’t receptive to it. 

In the publishing and media industry context, I quite like an extrapolation of the Drucker line to “culture eats strategy for breakfast and transformation for lunch.” It sometimes feels like our industry has been in a state of transformation for decades, and it can be exhausting. But don’t expect the pace to slow down or the disruption to lessen. 

That was the clear sense from the third and final module of the launch Newsroom Initiative master class this week: Impact and Influence. It set the tone for what I suspect will be a strong thread through the initiative this year: culture in the newsroom, especially ways to get the newsroom to align with but also influence overall corporate strategy.

A poll from the third module of the INMA Newsroom Initiative Master Class.
A poll from the third module of the INMA Newsroom Initiative Master Class.

The focus on readers and reader revenue is the key to unlocking that power.

David Walmsley, editor-in-chief of The Globe and Mail in Toronto, talked about tapping in to what motivates journalists and giving them great tools and data against which to measure themselves. Espen Egil Hansen, founder of consultancy Fyrr and a leader in Scandinavian publishing, said culture had to come first before strategy could succeed. And Maribel Perez Wadsworth, president of news at Gannett, showed how results drove change. 

“There is no greater mover of culture overall than seeing results … driving the business and connecting those dots from the work you are doing in the newsroom. This very important work that we do in journalism and how specifically it is helping to drive the business,” Maribel said in her presentation that highlighted achievements at the Detroit Free Press.

I always believed culture would be a critical part of the Newsroom Initiative, but maybe I underestimated how it would come up time and again in the three master class sessions. We will take this on board in planning the rest of the Newsroom Initiative since entire degree courses focus on culture. We want to find a formula that works for you.

Please send me your ideas on what you think works and what you need:

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About Peter Bale

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