Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Ray Hartley: I would like people to settle into their roles, knowing exactly what we'd like to achieve

SHOOT: This sounds exactly the sort of corporate speak you'll hear in the halls of AVUSA, where the Sunday Times is published, and it's exactly the reasons they encounter the problems they do. Nothing against Mr Hartley, who is competent and involved, but obviously shaped by the Corporate that he works for.

What is it that they would like to achieve?  Isn't it really just this: keeping their jobs.  This is the real reason roles need to be defined, to maintain, to defend really a status quo that has grown like a mould in the offices of that building over several years.  You need roles in a media company so that if you're in your office and you don't know what twitter is [don't believe in it and don't want to] you can hang onto your job and you can tether someone down who reports to you, because do what I say because I say so, and you realise the new kid ought to be soaring up the corporate ladder [gasp, possibly at your expense, howl, possibly making you look stupid and incompetent].
So you can make these policies and declare that you're putting the interests of the brand first, instead of your own and others in your clique, and who could blame you when jobs are being shed faster than duckfeathers in spring. Just don't expect your company to survive with that sort of mentality. And when your company goes, you go with it.

Let's face it, Media24 has embraced the wave of change, surfed it, and has recently surfed by the 2 million unique user figure. AVUSA's mascot for internet savvyness, The Times, a reasonable effort, is possibly at a quarter of this figure, despite a massive investment. In this race, with the stakes where they are, there are no prizes for coming second, and TimesLive [is that what it's called now] got off to a slow start and then staggered on from there.

It wasn't that they lacked talent or vision or ability. It was because the innovators weren't allowed to collaborate, or have the freedom to do what they were supposed to do ['stick to your role'] and when managers didn't understand or felt threatened, they tethered the upstart to satisfy their own insecurities. Media24 embraced the change and look where they are now.

Coming back to the basic psychology at work here, it's a little schizophrenic for Hartley to want to be the kind of editor and the paper to be one kind of newspaper [friendly and trusted] but the process within isn't really either of these. How can you expect to manifest good qualities if you don't truly internalise them? Honestly?

In a changing mediaverse, you can't regiment your troops, or even your strategy. You might have a core strategy, say 'content is king', but that process has changed and the players need to roll with those punches, becoming multitaskers [in multimedia], including the managers and editors. Editors need to be bloggers. Editors need to use social media. Everyone does. So why one defined role?

AVUSA instead is playing corporate castle, defend against all threats, batten down the hatches, broadcast [but don't listen] and for a communications company to not even admit to itself that these strict policies aren't working is a little sad.  They can play with stats and talk it up but reality speaks better than any man, and often better than a company that calls itself a communications company.

I worked for a little dictatress [female dictator] at the company and her no-discussion my-way was defended throughout the higher levels. Shocking. Non-collaboration in today's journalism environment is like smoking yourself to death - simple suicide. But carry on.
Biz: So what kind of editor do you want to be?
Hartley: I think the Sunday Times has got to be part of the great South African experience. It's got to be a newspaper that's trusted, that's seen as a friend, that has a personality that you can identify with - and a friend will tell you things you don't want to hear as well. That's the broad perspective. Within that, I think South Africans are ready for good content and are consuming good content online and elsewhere. And newspapers need to provide that insightful, higher-level reporting to readers. Insightful, well-written copy is what it's all about.
Biz: How would you like your staff to view you? You're the captain of a very big ship. You must have thought about it.
Hartley: I think I'm not from the hen-and-chicken school of management, which is get everybody under your wings. I'm from the school that says: "Let's have a professional relationship where roles are clearly defined, expectations are clearly set and we proceed from there."
blog it

No comments: