CEO John Paton's Address to Journal Register Employees: Transforming a Newspaper Company into a Media Company
Saturday, 06 February 2010

 Folks,

For the last four days, which are my first four days on the job as CEO, I have spoke and met with, in small groups and in one-on-one meetings, to about 100 of our 3,100 fellow employees.  At a group session of our publishers along with some advertising directors and editors I addressed the change I believe must happen to transform our newspaper company into a true multi-media company committed to providing the communities we serve with the very best local journalism.

I think accountability journalism is threatened in this country as newspapers struggle to find their way to a profitable future. And I think that threatens this country because we provide some of the key checks and balances in our communities. What we do is important and what we do is worth saving. And that means we have to change.

For all of the challenges we face I also believe these are some of the most exciting times to be in the business of local journalism.

New technologies and seismic developments such as social media are, if we are an open and questing company, allowing us to experiment in ways to truly participate with the audience. By opening ourselves up to ideas and partnerships within our communities and those companies that are harnessing technology to both create and distribute information, we can participate with the audience in ways we have never done before. And we can become better providers of local journalism.

And that is our goal – to become better providers of accountability local journalism that informs and provides for our communities the fuel to debate matters of importance. That doesn’t mean we are going to forget to have fun or bask in the glory of a local team winning the State championship but it does mean we will make accountability journalism and serving the community the focus of everything we do.

The following slides, presented at my meeting with our publishers and editors, outline some of my thoughts on how we become that company.

Already, we have taken steps to make the necessary changes. On Monday, we announced:

- We will have Flip HD video cameras in the hands of every one of our reporters within 30 days. The first 50 went out on Monday.

- Upgrade and enhance our I.T. infrastructure so that our employees can fully participate in the new news ecology

- The establishment of Community Journalism Media Labs initially in 6 of our communities. We are going to bring the outside world in to our company and work with entrepreneurial journalists. We will establish both content and sales arrangements with these local entrepreneurs to increase our coverage, audience and sales to our mutual benefit.

We also announced we are establishing an Advisory Board to help us think better about the challenges facing journalists. We will work with the Advisory Board  to identify the necessary experiments we will need to try to better participate with the audience in the creation and consumption of local news.

If we do this right we will become a company of ideas where all employees and our communities debate what’s best for our future. And preserve our cherished role of providing checks and balances.

And because I believe if we do this right we will become a much more vibrant and profitable company with a dynamic future, I want to make sure all employees share in that future. To that end, we announced on Tuesday the establishment of a profit sharing plan for all employees.

If the company wins our employees win. We will all win.

It is my hope this presentation is just the first step in a dialogue not only with you but also with our communities and those in the wider media world who also care that we find a way to preserve and enhance the future of accountability journalism.

So please have a read and tell me what you think. I can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

I look forward to hearing from you.

John

 

View the Powerpoint presentation here