Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Still Here

It's been more than a week since my last post, so yes, I'm still around, and no, I haven't forgotten the Swamp community.

As I cautioned a few weeks ago, I can't post with the frequency I used to, because of the demands of my job. I'm regularly blogging there now at and you can see from the frantic activity there where most of my blogging is directed.

With the help of David and Julie Scott, and I hope LYT and others, we can keep things lively here.

As for the job, we just went through significant layoffs at my newspaper. While I'm still employed, about 25 of my colleagues on the news staff were laid off. As a business reporter, even while I mourn the lost talent, I understand the reasons -- profits plunged at our parent company by 72 percent in the most recent quarter over a year ago. With ad revenues continuing to skid, the trend was going to take us into the red very soon. Since we're not a government entity or a financial institution too big to fail, running at a deficit is not an option.

I am trying to keep in mind the one good thing about bad financial news: It concentrates the mind, and encourages people and institutions to try new things and question old assumptions and ways of doing business that may be wrong. So I personally am trying new ways to connect to our readers, and to get new readers.

Regardless of what happens to any individual news organization, there will always be a need for good journalism. The world is just too complex, and too much is going on, for people to take it all in without someone to help pick out what is significant and explain why. There is value in that; the trouble is finding out the appropriate way of making it work financially, or as they say in the tech industry, "monetizing" it. (I hate the word, but it is concise and describes what has to be done).

And above all, I just plain enjoy what I'm doing. I almost always look forward to another day at my job. I'm learning interesting things and telling them to people who want to learn about them. Just now, I've returned from an extraordinary event, listening to four veteran CEOs tell their war stories about their failures, and what they learned from it.

The title of the event: "Failure IS An Option". It was a humorous and compassionate rebuke to the just-can't-lose stories of people who defied impossible odds to succeed. It was moderated by Neil Senturia, an entrepreneur who has known dismal, stomach-churning, sleep-destroying failure as well as success. And out of his despair turned into success, he emerged as devastatingly funny in dissecting everything that can go wrong -- the things rotting away in companies that most people prefer to keep hidden.

In real life, failure happens frequently, and often, it's beyond our capacity to stop. If your company decides a certain job is expendable, it may not matter how well you've done that job. And when you hear top CEOs say things such as "much of life is random," and "do not ever underestimate the power of good fortune," it takes some of the sting away from failure. Even the most successful people don't have all the answers.

One things these CEOs have in common is that they learned from their failures, and applied their lessons to their next ventures. They painfully learned the need to keep a distinction between one's business and personal identities -- a business failure is not the same as personal failure. As journalists look for jobs and news outfits look for economic models that work on the Web, these are good words to keep in mind.

Click Here To Comment!