Input requested: A 7-step framework for modern-day reporting organizations

I have a framework that I’d like to share with you. I’m sharing it with you early in the process, in the open-source spirit of “release early and release often,” with the hope that you can help me improve it.

Put simply, it’s a seven-step framework to help people think about how to build and run a modern-day reporting organization. It’s a prioritized approach to work through the strategic and tactical questions that I believe will need to be at the heart of every successful journalism enterprise of today and tomorrow. Here are the steps:

Although I’ve used the term steps, this is actually a cycle of continuous innovation, not a one-shot deal or single-pass through the steps.

I believe that continuous innovation is a necessary skill for all successful journalism enterprises to master. It’s necessary because media companies, large and small, are in a period of particularly aggressive disruption: people’s expectations of journalism organizations are changing rapidly, and that’s in large part due to technical advances from platforms and a handful of highly-innovative media companies. The media organizations that are going to thrive in this environment will need to disrupt their own products continuously to continue to earn the ongoing relationship with customers.

I believe this is true because I’ve been observing and researching the following:

Which brings us back to this seven-step framework for thinking about building and running modern-day reporting organizations:

Each stage can be divided into two sets of decisions to be made:

  • Strategy: The big-picture questions that help us to understand this new environment and how to navigate it successfully
  • Tactics: Specific forms of action, such as training or tools, that drive toward the larger strategic goal

Put together, these represent a lot of strategic and tactical decisions. Don’t panic. These decisions don’t need to be made all at once. However, I believe that a growing journalism enterprise will need to have all of these questions on the roadmap to be successful, both in terms of meeting current customers’ needs, as well as building a path to the customers of tomorrow.

Here’s where I need your help:

  • Can you help me think through what’s missing from the lists of questions below?
  • And can you share examples of journalism initiatives have tackled these effectively?

Perhaps, working together, we can define a framework — as well as case studies — for thinking about a modern-day reporting organization that can be shared with the enterprising journalists who are building the media ecosystem of tomorrow. God knows they will need a map to find their way.

Please add your contributions in the comments below, or feel free to send them to me directly in one of the usual places.

(The following tables are images because Medium doesn’t provide an easy way to add tables directly into a post. If you comment on an image, I’ll update it with your input.)

Example of Listen in action: HuffPost is taking its reporters on a “listening tour,” seeking stories, new readers, data, and solidarity

Examples of Investigate in action:

Example of Create in action: By mass-texting local residents, Outlier Media connects low-income news consumers to useful, personalized data

Examples of Publish in action:

(Some team members can head back to the Listen stage right here, as shown in the flow.)

Examples of Ask & Earn: How Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet reached 250,000 digital subscribers

Example of Learn in action: I’m still searching, do you know of a journalism enterprise that prioritizes learning?

Examples of Automate in action:

Behind all of this, like any enterprise, there will need to be business-side concerns like administration, accounting, payroll, legal, and so on. For that reason, I’ve left them out of the prioritized concerns above.

As always, I welcome your contributions in the comments below, or feel free to send them to me directly in one of the usual places.

Follow me on Medium, Twitter, or sign-up for my newsletter to receive updates as this framework evolves.

Many thanks in advance for your help on this,


As part of this JSK Fellowship, I’m working to improve the amount of “thinking out loud” that I do. This post is part of that effort and it works like this: I throw out some roughly formulated ideas that I’ve been considering, and you provide me with input to make them better. In the process, we’ll learn from each other, and you will be the first to try the resulting output: a product, an event, a course, etc. If that sounds good, you should consider following me to receive updates.

Originally published at on April 27, 2018.