Every time I fly, I am reminded of how small our lives can become.
I’m a creature of habit and I am prone to falling in love with the comfort zone those habits create.
That 30,000-foot perspective isn’t just some cliché that people use who aren’t very clever. Seeing New York City at night – and fortunately not starring in Sully II and landing in the Hudson River – from miles above was amazing. I’ve been on those streets and the city seems very big and very busy.
From miles above, it is serene and beautiful.
You can’t see the top of a cloud and not pause for a second to reflect on how surreal that really is.
I also enjoy those hours where the kind people at Delta tell you that you have to disconnect from your phone. If it’s an emergency, it will just have to wait an hour and 44 minutes until we land again. For a brief time, you are separated from everything else in the world by a metal tube in the air. Your thoughts are your own.
On the way to a conference for work this week, I simply
enjoyed flying at night.
Once at the conference, there were the typical conference activities. We met people who had only been voices on conference calls or signature lines on emails. We discussed things we can do better as publishers of local newspapers to serve our employees, readers and communities better. All of that is important.
But GateHouse added a few extra touches to really make the trip to Rhode Island worth it.
We have been going through some transitions at the News-Star recently.
But we started to address the change in a good way. I call it a good way because we didn’t simply look at how to replace people and positions.
We looked at how we could make the News-Star better in 2016 and in the future.
We didn’t just backfill. We rebuilt. Come back next October and ask me if everything worked. If it doesn’t, I won’t be crying into my Coke Zero.
Todd Rowe from Google was one of the special guests at our conference. Google is investing resources into its relationship with GateHouse. That’s kind of a big deal. Go back and read this paragraph again. I don’t want you to miss that.
During Rowe’s presentation, he said, “Innovation doesn’t happen by accident.”
Coming from Google, he would know. They have a way of changing the world. Not everything they do works, but obviously they hit a lot more than they miss.
Rowe also pointed out that there is a big different between just making slight changes in what you already do and truly innovating.
Here is an example. A change is using a minivan instead of a car for a taxi. Uber is innovative. If you have ever ridden in a cab, you know why someone wanted to disrupt that system. Mine in Providence cost $36 from the airport to the hotel and $42 from the hotel to the airport. Does that make sense to you? Me either. Uber makes a lot of sense. Technology made it possible.
There are some aspects of newspapers that really rely on “how we’ve always done it.” The key is to be really good at those things and then figure out the places where technology can help you innovate within this industry so that we are just as strong in 2035 when I retire as we were in 2015 when I came to Shawnee, Okla.
But my favorite part of the conference was when David Mead addressed our group. Mead works with Simon Sinek, author of two of my favorite books, “Leaders Eat Last” and “Start with Why.”
Mead talked about the “why” of the newspaper industry. It is easy to see the “what” in our industry. We write news and sell ads and try to make more than we spend so we can keep writing news and selling ads. But that isn’t our “why.”
Our news is created to inform, engage and even entertain readers. If you read the News-Star, you know more about your city, county, state, country and world. Because of that knowledge, you can be a better, more active citizen. Because we do that, we have a large and growing audience in print and online. Because of that, investing money to tell your story as a business helps you connect with that informed and engaged audience and that helps your business.
When you see your calling through that lens, suddenly, you aren’t trying to hit a goal or cover a story. Our employees use the vehicle this newspaper provides to help bring the people of Shawnee together and help our community.
We know why we’re here and now you do too. We make our decisions in order to help make all of those things happen every day.
Like Mead said, you can’t lose your focus on why you do what you do while you are doing what you do.
My perspective was adjusted both in the air on the way and on the ground at this conference. Just like we did yesterday, tomorrow we will do everything we can to make the News-Star the newspaper Shawnee wants and needs.
That’s why we’re here.