Ours is an industry full of contradictory truths that must be met head-on for long-term survival

I had the opportunity to attend the Leap Media Solutions Vail Roundtable this past week. One of the highlights of this event is the few hours spent with Professor Paul Wang, associate professor in the Medill integrated marketing communications department at Northwestern University.

One of the key take-aways this year for me is the concept of “contradictory truths.”

What is a contradictory truth? Simply, it is a situation where both sides bring valid truth to their side of argument or dilemma. In other words, both sides can make a valid and truthful argument as to why their choice or course of action is the right way.

As I was listening to Professor Wong, it occurred to me that the news media industry is full of many contradictory truths. Should we eliminate a day of distribution? Should we construct a meter or a paywall or remain free? Should we stress digital over print at all cost? Will either digital or print really sustain our companies over the long haul?

The list could go on and on.

Why do I bring this up in an INMA blog post, and what has it really to do with growing audience or revenue? I believe it has everything to do with our industry. And that it is critical we face these contradictory truths not only head on, but in an urgent fashion.

Professor Wang went on to indicate that facing these contradictory truths head on is critical. Not only should we face them head on, but we should then take these truths from all sides of the issue and blend them into one ultimate truth that will work for our organisation. 

Far too many organisations are bogged down in repeated discussions about the many critical issues and fail to make the necessary and critical decisions allowing them to move forward. Indecision is oftentimes more debilitating than the wrong decision. 

With a wrong decision, we can alter course once we believe we have made the wrong decision and move towards a more correct path. Indecision doesn’t even allow you the opportunity to move forward; you are stuck in the world of the unknown.

In fact, I would submit that no decision, or fence-sitting if you will, is actually moving backward and only shows poor leadership.

The beauty of INMA is the vast array of resources from which to draw information that allows us to make many of these critical decisions — resources that aren’t just limited to news media companies from our various countries or regions. We can draw upon resources that will help us discuss and tackle these contradictory truths from news media companies’ experiences from around the globe. 

The world is literally our playground when dealing with our various issues.

There is no doubt that the news media industry is full of some of the brightest and most business-savvy leaders in the world. That said, oftentimes that can lead to doubt and indecision, as all sides can make sound and valid arguments as to why we should or shouldn’t do something.

This can lead to a stalemate and/or lack of the much needed progress that needs to be made in order to ultimately win.

Just as in a hard fought game of chess, oftentimes the ultimate winner understands that we must step back or even give up some critical ground in order to ultimately declare checkmate. We in our industry will be required to do the same.

In many cases, as long as we are unwilling to sacrifice a portion of the business over the short term to secure our long-term survival, long-term survival will prove to be difficult.

I have purposely avoided attaching the concept of contradictory truths in this blog post to any single or concentrated issue. I believe we need to understand the nature of contradictory truths and apply them wherever it may apply in our business model.

I suspect that if we do that, we may be able to come to decisions that we otherwise may have avoided and actually move forward rather than stay stranded on the island of indecision.

About John Newby

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