Let's play 'Who's the Luddite now?'

For more than a decade there's been a deep division in newspaper journalism between the "onliners" and the .. well, let's face it, we all called them Luddites. Dinosaurs. People who just don't get it.

But times change.

All across the country there are efforts to move online publishing responsibility and authority into the core news organization.

It is a move fraught with peril. I've previously warned of the many ways that this can go wrong. But I have become convinced of the following:

It's not optional. We have to do it. We're coming up on the Picard inflection points. It's not economically feasible to run entirely separate online and print organizations.

They're ready to change. By and large, the "print" people have moved beyond the state of denial that has held them trapped for all these years. That doesn't mean they have the skills. They're a long way from really understanding the Internet. And there are some who pretty far behind the curve. But most want to move ahead.

We have a serious respect problem. Onliners often have an acute sense of being disrespected that can veer into a full-scale inferiority complex. Here's the thing: It works the other way, too. Print folks not only feel overwhelmed and undertrained, they also feel that their existing skills and their core values are not respected by onliners. Constantly hammering that they "just don't get it" makes things worse, not better.

Change hurts. The "five stages of grief" may apply:

1. Denial: "It can't be happening."
2. Anger: "Why me? It's not fair."
3. Bargaining: "Just let me live to see my children graduate."
4. Depression: "I'm so sad, why bother with anything?"
5. Acceptance: "It's going to be OK."

Managers need to be aware and supportive as staff members go through these stages. And it's important to know that the Luddites, the ones who fear change, may not be the ones you expect.