Back in California …

I’m back in San Francisco, this time for the California Newspaper Publishers Association conference.

On Friday, I give the morning keynote for the group’s summer conference.

A couple of months ago, the organization asked me to answer ten questions, which I think ran in the group’s monthly or quarterly magazine.

Here is how I answered those questions:


No. 1 — Why did you decide to work for a newspaper? What interests you in journalism?

I’ve wanted to be a journalist since I was in third grade. It’s all I can ever remember wanting to do.

I was editor of my high school paper back in Osage City, Kan., worked sporadically for my university paper at Emporia State, and was a stringer for a ton of newspapers all throughout my time in college.

I thought I wanted to be a high school journalism teacher, but telling stories was just too much fun, and I couldn’t imagine giving it up. For me, seeing my byline each morning was better than Christmas.

I love journalism and all that it stands for — both Big “J” journalism and little “j” journalism.

No. 2 — What is your biggest praise of the newspaper industry during this transitional time?

For the last decade or so, there have been a handful of newspapers that have worked incredibly hard to make sure that they continue — and even grow — their relationship with their readers. Their work, investment and creativity have been amazing.

But they are the exception, not the rule.

When I read and hear things from some publishers in the U.S., I definitely get worried about the newspaper industry.

Then you meet newspaper leaders like Dolph Simons (Lawrence Journal-World) and Don Graham (The Washington Post), and you realize some of these great news institutions are going to be around regardless of the disruption that surrounds us.

Dolph Simons always used to say that we had to be “driving with our brights on,” and he was.

I think this might be the most exciting time in American journalism. I love all the change.

No. 3 — Your biggest criticism?

Uhh … see above.

No. 4 — What can small/community newspapers learn from big/metro newspapers and vice versa?

I think it’s just the opposite: What can big metro newspapers learn from small dailies?

When I look at the most innovative news sites in the U.S., I think of Roanoke (, Bakersfield (, Bluffton ( and Lawrence (, as well as a couple of other papers that aren’t in Top 25 markets.

The Washington Post and The New York Times are doing some really cool things with new media, but if I were back at a smaller paper, I wouldn’t be looking at the big-market sites for inspiration.

I’d be looking at the smaller newspaper sites I listed above.

Look at the community dialogue being created in Bluffton, look at the willingness to experiment in Roanoke and Bakersfield, and look at dang near anything you want on or

My gut tells me that smaller papers are going to learn more from other smaller companies, and they’ll probably relate better to the lessons learned. Plus, I think there is a hotbed of innovation in some of these smaller markets.

No. 5 — What is one of the biggest challenges of working in the newsroom today from your personal experience?

In years past, it was really hard getting buy-in from the newsroom in some markets. But it doesn’t seem that way anymore. Most of the “traditional” reporters I work with now are very open.

It definitely feels like the mindset has definitely changed in the last year or so.

What I’ve found is that once the reporters and editors understand that you just want to create kick-ass journalism, then they’re pretty dang helpful.

No. 6 — What does a degree in Integrated Studies entail?

I basically just took the classes that interested me. I had a lot of hours and none that added up to a more traditional degree. Luckily, (the school) eventually came up with a degree for people in my situation.

I went back to college several years after I had left Emporia State to finish my degree once “Integrated Studies” became an option.

No. 7 — Where are some places where you look for inspiration for innovation?

I watch my family and learn from them all of the time. I spend a lot of time on non-newspaper sites. Heck, we got the idea on how we should use cell-phone text messaging for from a bank in Sweden back in probably 2001.

No. 8 — What is the best advice anyone has ever given you on working in the newspaper industry?

Bill Snead (Lawrence Journal-World senior editor) taught me it’s about the content, not how the audience gets your content. The technology means nothing if your content sucks.

Focus on doing things that delight and inform your audience. Connect with them.

No. 9 — Where do you get your news every day?

I check my e-mail on my cell phone first thing when I wake up, and I get my first news of the day from a couple of different e-mail editions that I subscribe to.

Then before I head to work, I usually spend about 15-20 minutes going through The Washington Post print edition while eating a bowl of cereal. I spend most of my “print newspaper time” with the sports section, then probably the business and metro sections.

On my drive into work, I have a couple of different podcasts that I listen to each morning – both from fairly traditional media companies.

I listen to the PTI podcast (which is a daily television show on ESPN featuring a couple of Washington Post columnists that I think works really well as an audio podcast), and I listen to the NBC Nightly News podcast, which can be really good as a podcast when it stays newsy.

From there on out, I mostly use the RSS feeds on my iGoogle page, which I probably check 5-10 times a day.

I go to a lot niche sites that relate to things I’m interested in — some from traditional companies, but most of them are independent.

I read a lot of blogs. I like to see what topics are the most blogged about each day on

No. 10 — Regular Mountain Dew? Or Code Red?

Do I have to choose?

They’re both so good!


When I checked into my hotel room this evening, the CNPA had a six pack of Mountain Dew waiting for me. I already love these guys.

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Dad. Journalist. Nerd. Music lover. Baseball fan. Puckhead.