Journalists today face increased pressure to boost their profiles in order to succeed

In last week's New York Observer, columnist Ron Rosenbaum spent a lot of time criticizing how those who run the nation's newspapers have allowed the lingo and theories of management consultants to creep into the ways they run their businesses.

In last week's New York Observer, columnist Ron Rosenbaum spent a lot of time criticizing how those who run the nation's newspapers have allowed the lingo and theories of management consultants to creep into the ways they run their businesses.

Cringing at talk of "brand extension," "comfort zones," "silos," and "packets of information" in two recent, high-profile sources - Howell Raines' apologia in The Atlantic Monthly and the committee report on former USA Today reporter Jack Kelley's fabrications - Rosenbaum concluded that reporters ought to turn their investigative eye on the very ideas that shape the way newsrooms are managed. While he doesn't go so far as to make what would be the misguided suggestion that consultant thinking has anything to do with the Kelley or Jayson Blair debacles, Rosenbaum does throughout the course of his argument nicely sum up a misperception of what journalists are. Take his kicker: "Who is going to be the editor brave enough to sic some reporters on the corporate consultants who are jargonizing the integrity of newspaper culture away?" Underlying Rosenbaum's dubious opposition between newspaper and consultant culture is an even shakier opposition between newspaper culture and a broader business culture, as if the companies that publish the nation's broadsheets and tabloids aren't commercial enterprises. If this perspective were an isolated one, it would not even be worth mentioning. In fact, it's a common misunderstanding of the journalistic world furthered by media people of all types, including PR pros. While reporters do have ethical obligations to things like truth and objectivity, they also have obligations to their bosses, who in turn endure the pressures of a very competitive industry. With more media choices available, audiences have become fragmented, and the stakes are higher. Moreover, technological advances are constantly changing the playing field, morphing ink-stained wretches into multimedia newshounds. Witness the recent inaugural address of the new chairman of the Newspaper Association of America. Rather than talk about the Blair and Kelley scandals, Gregg Jones chose to talk about the multimedia future: "I see a day when newspapers are, in fact, information companies. Newspapers ... specialty publications ... the web ... wireless. We can use the one-of-a-kind ties to our markets to be all of that." Factors like convergence - business factors - have pushed even rank-and-file reporters into the role of mini-brand managers. In addition to cultivating their own professional profiles, they're constantly charged with pushing their outlet's brand message to members of their existing and desired audiences, both directly and through other media. This work has all become necessary for survival. Writers like Rosenbaum might scoff at these things and long for simpler days when management consultants didn't have to be part of a newsroom conversation, but that nostalgia does nothing to change the fact that the pressures facing a journalist today are remarkably similar to those facing others in public life - in many cases the very leaders they're assigned to cover.

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