One day I was doing some consulting and sat down with a new media director to talk about how he might work to make his website more complimentary and less directly competitive with his newspaper.
Develop the interactive community, I said.
But that takes time and people that I don't have, he said.
Stop putting all your time into cutting and pasting newspaper stories onto the web, I said. Your limits are real, but you can reallocate. Make your website an interactive center of the community. Lead discussions instead of trying to duplicate the newspaper. Let print be best at what it does, and use the Internet for its interactive strengths.
But my news guy won't like it, he said. The news guy signed up to put news stories online, not run bulletin boards. He'll quit.
I've thought about that interaction often recently.
Across the country, there are moves to integrate online and print departments. Reporters and photographers are being asked -- finally! -- to recognize that they have multimedia responsibilities. Newsrooms are being renamed "information centers" and asked to accept responsibilities for non-news information, utility data, "evergreen" resources. And online "divisions" are disappearing.
Not surprisingly, some people don't like this. But the pushback isn't always from some mossback from the print side who's still acting like it's 1987. Sometimes it's from the online side.
Middle managers everywhere naturally resist anything that might diminish their power bases. It shouldn't be surprising that onliners, too, can become agents of stasis rather than agents of change. We need to be on guard against that.
Not all change is good, and it's appropriate to speak out, to raise issues that need attention. But we need to make sure that we're raising issues that are real and not merely looking for ways to protect our positions of power or independence. Let's not become the new roadblock.