Turning inner space into outer space

January 30, 2016

Newspaper heads need to give us their why

Author Simon Sinek has a theory about why people become loyal to certain products or brands. He says it starts with why — the motivation of the people who run the company.

What makes the CEO get out of bed in the morning? What does he or she do to motivate the people who work for the company? Is it something we can identify with?

Apple is a good example of this. CEO Steve Jobs turned the company around in the ’90s with a Think Different campaign that had nothing to do with computers and everything to do with core beliefs.

Since then, many people have bought into this ideal. Most recently, they have rewarded Apple with a record-breaking quarter of $18.4 billion in profits.

Another example is Elon Musk, the entrepreneur behind Tesla and SpaceX. He has big ideas about what the future should look like — electric cars, space exploration, innovative transportation systems.

Those who admire his foresight are the ones who buy his cars, and help make Tesla a success.

Which brings me to the great sadness of newspapers. Two more dailies — in Nanaimo and Guelph — have shut down. Postmedia, owner of most of Canada’s major dailies, including the Sun and Province in Vancouver, is laying off more employees and merging newsrooms.

I wonder what motivates Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey. How about the men who run B.C.‘s newspaper chains — Black Press chairman David Black, Glacier Media chairman Sam Grippo, Aberdeen Publishing president Bob Doull?

We don’t hear much from them, so it’s hard to say what they believe in. Newspaper readers would no doubt appreciate it if they spoke publicly about great journalism. If they’re getting out of bed, thinking about building communities and holding power to account, it would be incredible to hear this.

As it stands, we’re left to believe that the people who run newspapers are simply trying to eke out some revenue before their properties are no longer viable. There is nothing wrong with this, but it’s hardly inspiring.

For inspiration you would have to turn to websites such as The Tyee or the Vancouver Observer. The people who run these news sites are quite open about why they do what they do. You might not agree with it, but there are plenty of others who do, and they are willing put up their money to keep these efforts afloat.

When Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post with his own money, he made it clear that he did for the journalism. And now the Post is making a solid turnaround, close to surpassing the New York Times in readership.

There are no simple solutions for newspapers, but it’s hard to imagine anyone reading them or preferring them when the people in charge are silent on how they feel about the one thing that would make us want to use their product — good journalism.