Trying to create change in your newsroom? Plan for possible responses

January 8, 2020 11:30

Winston Churchill once said, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” Perfection is a bit of a stretch, but encouraging frequent change – not just change for change sake, but real, meaningful change – is truly one of the things that can position your station (or any organization, for that matter) leaps and bounds ahead of the rest.
Everything about the world today is moving so rapidly. Think about this: It took airline companies roughly 68 years to reach their first 50 million customers. The automobile industry? Right around 62 years to hit their first 50 million drivers. Pokemon Go reached 50 million users in just 19 days.
It’s simply not possible to continue to operate in the “that’s the way we’ve always done it” mentality anymore. Innovation is moving too quickly and, frankly, a significant portion of people entering the workforce are looking for a culture of change, not a place where good ideas go to die without breathing a little life into them first.
Adapting to and embracing change doesn’t always come easy. Generally, there are four broad reactions to change, though these are just generic – don’t forget everyone is different. Some of these might hit home with your own reactions about change and, more likely than not, you can see these “personalities” in the people you work around and with.
The Critic: Absolutely opposes change and will go kicking and screaming into the process (usually figuratively, but…). The “why” behind the change doesn’t matter or resonate, and they usually truly don’t even hear it in a meaningful way. Often behaves this way because they are scared the change will eliminate them or something they care deeply about, have not been conditioned to change or aren’t being approached in the right way about the change.

The Victim: Full on panic ensues with word of any change and is met with all the reasons the change will negatively impact their work, the team’s work and the overall organization. May try to reason their way out of the change because of all the possible downfalls and challenges. Can behave this way because they don’t understand the change or the reasons behind it, or because they fear they don’t have the skills/knowledge to complete the new tasks being asked of them.

The Bystander: Completely ignores the change, either continuing to operate in the same way as before, or creating a new path that implements just enough of the change to get by “under the radar.” Can be a vocal behind-the-scenes critic of the change, encouraging other employees to ignore or half-adapt too. Often have a fundamental disagreement with the change, or don’t understand enough to “buy in.”

The Jump Up and Down: Consistently looks forward to change in all areas of work/life; Caution the urge from this type of person to change for change’s sake, not completely understanding all aspects of the change. Often behaves this way because they may not be challenged enough in their work, or because their deep understanding of a process or procedure leads them to believe it could be done better.

The underlying secret to success for each type of “change reaction” above is communication. Getting buy in for the idea, involvement in the decision, understanding and explaining the why – each of these key aspects of change management is rooted in communication.

If you’re transparent about the why behind the change, encourage others to get involved in decision making about the change and are transparent about the process, your collective team will be better for it. A recipe for disaster? An information vacuum, which only causes people to try and fill it, often with incorrect information that gets everyone fired up.

In the end, a successful newsroom will have to change and adapt to new technology, audiences and consumption habits. You’ll have to stay up-to-date on the changing face of business operations and essential skills if you want to succeed. Andy Warhol is right: “They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”


2019 Research