The Cyberbrains

Research and contemplation in new media

Take it from the top

A trip to St. Louis this week turned my thinking upside down.

Clyde Bentley at FoxI spent two days this week shadowing the Web producer at KTVI, the Fox O&O station at the Gateway to the West. Jill Hampton is a talented and talkative Missouri grad I met when I recently attended the station’s Blog-a-Palooza.

That’s right. Blog-a-Palooza. An all-out bash for bloggers – coordinated by a television news department.

Fox2STL, as it is better known to its viewers, has an incredible Web operation. Incredible primarily because it doesn’t exist as a tangent to the “normal” news operation. Anchors, Web producers, bloggers and management are just one big family.

The first three siblings are what I hoped to find when drove to St. Louis. But it was that last member that changed my view of online organization.

As a digital journalism professor, I’ve worked under the common perception that if we train the new generation of journalists well, they will bring all of us into the next age. It’s a bottom-up strategy.

But what I realized after talking to the managers and staff at Fox2STL is that the real secret to convergence success is a thoughtful top-down strategy.

Kingsley Smith, vice president of news for the station, is recognized throughout the organization as the heart and soul of the station’s future. His firm grip and piercing eyes belie his Texan roots, but he is far from the megalomaniac that its critics believe run Fox.

Smith believes that the Internet is just as vital to Fox as its broadcast and cable franchise. To him, that means it should be a natural part of very job in the building. His first dictum: Online will not be extra work, it’s just part of the job.

And he heartily invited the viewers to the table. The station hosts a blog system with nearly 14,000 registered user and more than 9,000 active blogs. He puts the full resources of the station into welcoming the bloggers, helping the bloggers and promoting the bloggers without reservation.

His enthusiasm is so infectious that staff member after staff member has willingly jumped into the digital fray. Most have their own blogs – but they write on company time. And pushing video or a story over to the Web desk is as natural for them as getting a news tip from a citizen blogger. No big deal.

No, it is a big deal. Other Fox stations with the same resources are not faring anywhere near as well. But ask Web wizard Jill Hampton, anchor John Pertzborn, reporter Tim Ezell or any of the staff for the secret and they point up.

“It’s Kingsley.”

 

That’s management.

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June 1, 2007 - Posted by | Clyde Bentley

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