Young journalist’s view: Corporate got in the way

(Confidential to Chief Digital Officer Chris Saridakis: This post is especially worth reading.)

Braden Nicholson (left) was The Indianapolis Star‘s well-regarded project manager for innovation/development, and general manager of Indy.com, the paper’s award-winning entertainment section. Nicholson, 29, quit in late May to join Sport Graphics of Indianapolis, where he’s now vice president for account services. In a new post on Ruth Holladay‘s blog, he describes the Star‘s digital efforts, and what it was like dealing with folks back at Corporate:

“We were working on some unbelievable stuff, really innovative stuff,
at the time. Hell, we even took home an EPpy for Indy.com (over a
product from Corporate in the same category) the week I left.

“But I saw how the majority of our best work was being undone by Corporate. Rather than working hard because I loved what we were doing (which I did), I started working hard to spite Corporate. To make a better whatchamacallit than them, show them that these kids in Indiana can do it better, faster, now. I wouldn’t trade most of the people I worked with at the Star for
anything in the world. . . . I wouldn’t trade the opportunity I was given
for anything in the world. But the gig was up.”

Holladay’s appraisal: “Braden said it best. Corporate doused the fire.”

Please post your thoughts in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

Earlier: ‘Bare Brazilian’ sex sells in Indianapolis

[Image: today’s Star, Newseum]

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18 Responses to “Young journalist’s view: Corporate got in the way”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Many of us at Indy are pleased to see Braden leave the Star. He was an arrogant kid who believed that he was smarter than the rest of us here.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    To anon @ 10.48: You wouldn’t want to surround your self with smart people, would you?

    This type of thinking is what is keeping the company down. Keep looking down on the ones that have good ideas because they might show you up.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    I don’t know anything about Indianapolis or this guy but I did follow the link to the Sports Graphics site. It’s not a good Web site.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    anon 10:48 – 29 years old does not a “kid” make. It’s that kind of attitude that makes it difficult to keep younger employees at newspapers.

    As a former online manager at a Gannett property, I completely understand where he’s coming from. My flaw was that I trusted corporate too much. With a staff of only 1.5 coders (me being the .5, since the manager’s role took most of my time) and an even smaller budget, I’d believe corporate when they’d send a memo saying not to move on getting our own forums or calendar program or prep sports partnership because one was coming “soon.” So we’d concentrate on other things and end up behind the times when “soon” ended up being “Q2 of next year.” Plus, any neat idea we came up with was usually squashed by corporate or GMTI because they couldn’t support it.

    Once corporate gave our newsroom the moronic idea that it was better equipped to run its own websites than experienced site managers could, my “staff” and I knew our time was running out.

    We are much happier now that we’re no longer there.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Anon @ 2:31 p.m. – Most of those words could have come from my own mouth. I’m not a techie by trade, but a journo who readily accepted an online editor spot. We also kept being told innovative stuff was coming and that we didn’t need to waste our time working on it now ’cause corporate had it handled. What a joke.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    IndyStar is full of a bunch of punks who think they are all innovators. I left there recently and always believed these little shit-stains were all immature. Let me remind all of you in Indy that you are working for one single newspaper. One of a million newspapers that are attempting to stop the bleeding in your traditional business.

    Look in the mirror and ask yourself if you feel good about the job that you have and the company for which you are working for.

    All the gannett executives pretend to care. When was the last time Dickey visited you? Dubow? Exactly…they don’t care about you and you don’t care about them.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    In Cincinnati, we laugh and groan at the same time when we receive new directives from corporate. They have a rough idea of what they want, but not a clue about what it takes to get there. So we’re left with a patchwork of buggy, unproven and incompatible programs and platforms, and corporate expects us to perform miracles with it.

  8. mr. whig Says:

    “In Cincinnati…” That’s The Grand Old Lady of Vine Street I remember.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    The Web work done in Indy has been superb, so if they were all arrogant little shits, maybe they were justifiably so.

    They obviously knew what they were doing. Gannett’s technology and Web efforts have mostly been awful. It’s too bad corporate can’t attract and keep more people with those kinds of skills.

  10. Anonymous Says:

    Re: Previous posting.

    Don’t be too hard on corporate regarding tech an Web efforts.

    Other than GO-3, Pluck, CV’s real estate product, Shop Local, every single product ever offered to deliver private-party classifieds, Celebro City Server, Prep Factory, every forums product ever offered and Topix.net, everything’s been pretty good.

    Oh . . . Um . . . Uh, never mind.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    @10:28 must have also once worked as a senior editor at Greenville because they also show the same regard for young journalists of outstanding ability.

    I left the company a number of months ago and for good reason. If I were 20 years older, I would have been just fine, but because I wasn’t, the EE thought it necessary to let me know I wouldn’t be “respected.” (The same guy who no one respects in that newsroom).

    Looks like this poison spreads in all Gannett newsrooms. I always thought Greenville was just unique. This attitude toward young people (aka future editors) will be the death knell of Gannett. Eventually the last 50-year-old will leave and there will be no one left to take their place.

  12. Anonymous Says:

    @8:28: That was great.

  13. Anonymous Says:

    I work at a gannett paper where young people are definitely valued. Almost everyone running the news room is under 50.

  14. Anonymous Says:

    Re: Anon 11:03

    Sadly that’s the way it is in Phoenix. Of course here they’re getting rid of everyone over 50. Problem is our under 50’s are freakin’ idiots. Leader of the “1st Amedment” page one team is so inept that people don’t want to do page one stories because they want to stay out of her orbit.

    The new under 50 sycophant Managing Editor is an empty vessel who brings no new ideas to the table and the news sense of salamander.

    We. Are. So. Screwed.

  15. Anonymous Says:

    Dear Mr. Anonymous – Next time say it to my face, rather than hide behind this blog. Signed “One of the shit stains”

  16. Anonymous Says:

    To regard Braden Nicholson highly is to never have worked with him. Fun guy to hang out with — no question about it — but not someone to rely on. And it was almost humorous to have Dennis Ryerson advise you to “go see Braden, he’s got some great ideas about XYZ,” when you were the one to give Mr. Nicholson those ideas about XYZ. Yes, great guy to beer with. Would never want to be stuck “working with” him again. That’s a crowded camp, too.

    Anon 4:10: Awesome anon comeback to anon. How very Braden!

  17. Anonymous Says:

    In his defense, I enjoyed working with Braden and didn’t notice any animosity toward him when I was there a few years ago. I can’t honestly say that for all of the people in Indy, which makes me wonder if the poster above is part of the older vs. younger generations argument, or maybe BN just didn’t have outright enemies among the young-ish staff until after I left.

    I have to add he was way more respectful than some of his superiors/other managers in terms of how he treated people based on personal experience and hearsay with others in the building. And again, I can’t say that about everyone there. And that includes how people there treated others when they were present, not just behind their backs.

    And if DR was mistaken about who had what ideas, that’s on DR. I would hope if BN suggested something he would give credit to the person who had the idea, and maybe DR just forgot that part (I know I could be wrong in thinking this, but I’m more willing to go on Braden’s side in this one–but of course I wasn’t there when the above poster told Braden his idea, when Braden told DR, or when DR told the poster).

  18. Anonymous Says:

    I admire the online work Indy’s done, even if it is courtesy of cocky kids. At least they’re making something innovative happen during a time when corporate seems hell-bent on driving people away from Gannett newspaper sites with confusing site maps and excruciating load times.

    That said, I work for a paper where most of my bosses are on the young end of the baby boomer generation (that’s the “Bruce” boomers, as in grew up with Springsteen, not the Bob, as in Dylan, boomers — as defined by Gannett’s Info Center 2.0 demographic targets, which if you haven’t been clued into yet, you will soon.) Half of our news reporters are in their 20s, and our editors regularly solicit and actually use our feedback. So there definitely isn’t an every paper eats its young/hates its young trend. But the depressing part to me (even more than the fact that I don’t personally fit into any of the new target audiences for the IC 2.0 concept) is that as much as I want to keep at it, as much as I live for the adrenaline rush that I’m not sure anything except breaking news on deadline (and maybe coke?) can give you, I don’t know how much longer I can work myself to the bone for pennies at a paper that keeps taking hits from corporate. Our price is rising. Our product is shrinking. But we’re expected to produce even more copy not just for the Web but for print. At some point, something’s gotta give. I’m just scared it’ll be the smart and talented “kids” like Braden and my peers. We may be young and “immature,” but for better or worse, we’re the future readers and the future editors. If we leave jaded and burnt out, nobody is going to be there to feed this fire and keep the journalism that does matter going. My fear is that corporate is getting in the way of its own best interests.

    But what do I know. I’m just a kid.

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