McGuire on Media

It’s time for a shift in focus

This McGuire on Media blog bores me a bit these days. There is simply no easy place to land when I try to come up with topics. 

The newspaper business is unraveling more than it is unwinding. Harping on the short-sighted moves of a suffocating business just isn’t any fun.

And the silly unethical maneuvers by so many in the business would be easy pickings. I could write a scathing column about engagement editors who only want to print “happy news.” Or I could write about the in-fighting in Cleveland between the print operation and the digital operation. The editor who thinks “off-hand” comments critical to the debate shouldn’t be printed would make good fodder for discussion. Certainly the mass reorganization at Gannett papers would be an easy target, too.

Yet, kvetching on poor, desperate journalism decisions in a time when hanging onto profits without improving the product is the rule, seems like shooting fish in a barrel.

I don’t want to be the scold who weeps and gnashes his teeth over the destruction of newspapers. Newspapers had a great run. Digital technology changed our world. A business model got destroyed. An industry simply couldn’t react quickly enough. And, the smug folks in television ought to lose those smirks because they are probably the next to go down.

Regional newspapers will survive for a while as a service to the elite only if their parent organizations stop their short-term thinking and simultaneous destruction of their product. I just don’t find it very exciting to wait around to see if publishers are going to get a clue and figure out that top-line revenue increases are the only way to extend their business and that they can’t continue to cut costs to prosperity. Jeff Jarvis  argues against that point in his fine new book Geeks Bearing Gifts. He believes cost-cutting is crucial.

All of this is to say I am switching academic and personal directions. I have already found a lot of joy and challenge in writing a new blog called McGuire on Life, Disability and Grief and more reinvention is on the way.

As a start I seldom used the word newspaper in my 21st Century journalism class last semester. I talked about news organizations, reinvention, innovation, creativity and inventing radical new models.

For a time I thought that was the best way to deal with the graduate students I am teaching, but I have now decided it is the best way to make all ASU students unique in the marketplace. It’s also pretty important to keeping me sane. (I know, probably too late.)

I don’t think a lot of people would disagree that when I was an editor I tried to stay at the front of invention and innovation. And from the day I walked into the Cronkite School I looked to the future and thought hard about inventing a new one.

I now hope to reinvent myself again to become the journalism professor out here in the desert exploring creativity and innovation and figuring out better ways to teach students how to think about those things. I have just agreed to invent another new course for Cronkite and to make my Business and Future of Journalism class an online course.  I decided I did not want to come to the end of my teaching career in a few years without having dipped my toe in the future of teaching.

In all these efforts my dream is to get students thinking. We need to get students and journalists to understand the theoretical underpinnings of innovation and creativity.

The Walter Cronkite School needs to teach skills and it needs to be on the cutting edge of the teaching hospital movement which is a lot easier since the school now operates Public Television Channel 8 in the Arizona market. However, if our students are going to change journalism I have decided they need to think about critical thinking, creativity theory, virtual living and innovation.

This broken-down newspaper editor may not be the perfect choice to fight that fight, but I think the record shows I have always been willing to break from the pack simply to spice things up.

I’d love to have a Creativity and Innovation Center for journalism students and practitioners at Cronkite but for now I am going to spend my time exploring the connections between all the words written on creativity and innovation and a changing journalism world.

And, I plan on writing about those thoughts in this space from time to time.  I may still speak out on big media issues, but I hope you notice a shift to creativity and innovation in this blog and in journalism education.

Tim J McGuire is the author of “Some People Even Take Them Home” A Disabled Dad, A Down Syndrome Son and Our Journey To Acceptance

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