Two journalism professors who’ve been studying culture change in newsrooms say newspaper leaders shouldn’t pass the buck to their staffs.

Last week’s report by the Project for Excellence in Journalism uncovered some much needed data for making sense of the search for a new newspaper business model. But it also demonstrates how some leaders misunderstand the role they play in leading their cultures into the new reality of digital media. Here’s an excerpt:

“Probably the most difficult thing is to change a corporate culture because you don’t really have the power to do it,” noted one executive. “You can change CEOs, executive VPs, digital VPs. You can wave this magic wand all you want. But at the end of the day, the troops in the field hunker down. From our company, and I would venture for other organizations as well, the most difficult thing to do is change it.”

Changing a culture is not a top-down or bottom-up proposition: It’s a dance between leaders and their organizations. Edgar Schein, one of the foremost researchers of organizational culture and leadership, notes that mature organizations often struggle to live up to the ideals and vision of their founders. Think HP post Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, Walmart after Sam Walton.


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