Why today’s newsrooms need ‘digital people,’ and how to identify them

News room of the New York Times newspaper Right foreground, city editor. Two assistants, left foreground. City copy desk in middle ground, with foreign desk, to right; telegraph desk to left. Make-up desk in center back with spiral staircase leading to composing room. Copy readers go up there to check proofs. (Photo by Marjory Collins) http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2012647143/

News room of the New York Times newspaper Right foreground, city editor. Two assistants, left foreground. City copy desk in middle ground, with foreign desk, to right; telegraph desk to left. Make-up desk in center back with spiral staircase leading to composing room. Copy readers go up there to check proofs. (Photo by Marjory Collins) http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2012647143/

Steve Buttry, digital transformation editor for Digital First Media, challenged journalists recently to tell him why they should be hired as newsroom leaders. Been there, done that, ready for a different set of frustrations. But some of the questions he raised are worth answering, anyway.

Our CEO, John Paton, says we need to “put the digital people in charge.” Tell me why you’re a digital person. If you started out a print person (as I did), tell me about your journey to becoming a digital person: how far you’ve come, how far you still need to go and where you’re headed next.

A few years ago, I put it a slightly different way to the bosses at my paper: They needed some “digital natives” in top positions. Same idea, I think. Being digitally native, I said then, didn’t mean someone who had only worked online, or someone who had grown up using social media. Rather, I meant people who not only could use digital tools but did; and people who were ready to break out of old print-newsroom concepts of what being a leader meant.

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