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Summary and implications

When a media company’s performance is analyzed, managers are often criticized for the innovations that they have not implemented. When discussing a new approach in journalism, the views of staff members are rarely cited. And while reports tally how many people have been laid off, it is often difficult to measure anxiety over job security.

We hope that these findings lend more context to these types of stories.

Our findings suggest that managers are often more comfortable with technology and more frustrated with the rate of adoption of technology than staff members. Managers are also more likely to value data journalism and audience metrics.

Managers may be more likely to embrace these innovations because they are more likely to see the economics of the news industry as a major challenge. In contrast, we find that staff members are more likely to be concerned with supporting quality journalism and are more critical of sponsored content.

Outside of work, we find that managers are more likely to donate their time and skills while staff members are more likely to freelance or engage in self-promotion. Relatedly, we find that staff members report lower levels of job security and are less confident that they will still be working in journalism in five years.

To be sure, some of these observed differences are to be expected and some of the differences are modest. But taken together they suggest that managers and staff members have different perspectives and experiences in regards to the state of journalism. In many respects, managers seem to align themselves with the traditional “business side” by embracing audience metrics and new streams of revenue while staff are more representative of the “editorial side” that focuses on producing content and preserving news quality.

Given that many news organizations are focusing on how to best implement innovations, we believe that these differences are important and noteworthy. If staff members are anxious about their jobs and more focused on creating content at work and freelancing outside of it, they will have less time and energy to learn and contribute to new innovations. Moreover, if they believe that these innovations are hurting the quality of journalism, they may actively resist them.

And in the digital age, is increasing engagement the responsibility of the business side or editorial side? Because of these types of mutual responsibilities, many experts have argued that these silos unintentionally stymie innovation.

To facilitate innovation, it may not be enough for managers to learn new skills and approaches. It may require workers throughout the organization to share the same goals and views, which would require managers and staff members to bridge some of these differences. To do so, leaders of media organizations may need to spend more time communicating with staff how new strategies fit within existing norms and goals. Or conversely, they may need to listen to staff to iterate new approaches towards audience metrics, sponsored content, and other digital practices and innovations.

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