Thoughts from a shrunken newsroom on transitions

I am by nature a positive person.

So today, I am working to find a good spin on the fact that our newsroom is nearly 24 per cent smaller than it was yesterday.

Yesterday we saw section editors, copy editors, photographers and writers leave our newsroom – all of them excellent journalists – as part of a buyout program.

It’s no understatement to say the news business is in a period of transition, and change is never easy. This, too, is as cliched as it is true.

Our newsroom’s changes got me thinking about triathlons.

I recently started competing in triathlons again  (No, not Iron Mans, and I’m no Simon Whitfield), and while the race is grueling, most competitors will agree that it is the transitions between sports that are the toughest test.

The first transition, from swim to bike, is known as T1. During the T1 an athlete is struggling to regulate their breathing from a tough workout in the water, perhaps slip out of a wetsuit (if you have ever worn one you will know what a challenge this is), get into bike gear, and race back onto the course. During this time, your pulse is racing, your muscles are exhausted, and you’re probably still shaking from the rush of adrenaline.

T2 is an even more challenging transition – from bike to run. Hopping off a bike and switching up shoes is one thing, but the really challenge is asking tired quadriceps that have been pedaling in a circular motion for nearly an hour to stop, and switch to the lateral movement of running. In training, this is called ‘a brick’ – I can only imagine this is because your legs truly do feel like they are bricks.

The first 500m to kilometre are agony. Your body shouts for you to stop. Calf muscles cringe with every step. It feels like you will never find a running groove, or flow.

But eventually your legs do work again, you find your groove and start to move forward. After crossing the finish line, all I can recall was how amazing it feels to be a part of it all.

I’m not sure if the industry is in T1 or T2 (more likely this isn’t your typical race, and we’re in T4 of 10 transitions), but it sure feels like a brick today.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that in the future (perhaps a year, two or five years, who knows) I will look back on this period and think how amazing it was to be a part of a major evolution in journalism – the biggest since Gutenberg, I’d argue.

Now we are forced to prioritize, to figure out what it is essential for our audience so that we can bring them the information it wants, the fastest way possible, on the platforms it uses. We knew this day was coming – well now we are here, panting and sweaty in the transition zone, ready to move onto the next phase of the event.

I hope folks like me who soldier on in shrunken newsrooms look back on this period and think that like a triathlon this was an amazing journey. Because receiving mass email goodbyes to the newsroom from some pretty talented folks was tough yesterday.

I recently watched the documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. In it, Australian Joe Cross goes on a 60-day juice fast to ‘reboot’ his body, learn about what we eat and our health. [Spoiler alert]  Cross loses 92 pounds by the end of the documentary, so all ends well.

But I was struck by something the Aussie said before he began his fast of drinking only fruits and vegetables: “I just want to wake up and it’s over, I’ve done it.”

I hear you Joe.

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2 thoughts on “Thoughts from a shrunken newsroom on transitions

  1. Watching colleagues leave is tough…trying to see transition as positive is a challenge…good luck. I also like to believe that change is good, necessary and inevitable. I also like to believe that the change will result in something good.

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