Solomon Lays Out “Seven Principles”

New Washington Times head John Solomon sent this memo, obtained by FishbowlDC, to employees yesterday:

    Seven Guiding Principles for The Washington Times Newsroom

    Excellence. The newsroom will strive to achieve the highest standard for print and digital journalism, built on the Times’ rich tradition of uncovering stories others have missed or ignored. That means producing original reporting on government and political accountability, national security, politics, culture, faith, technology, family, international affairs and other issues of keen interest to our readership without wavering from a neutral, civil voice. All of our journalism will seek to be fair, balanced, accurate and precise. Our goals are to produce enterprise stories so compelling that they will impact the daily dialog of Americans and to construct spot coverage that transcends the commodity news already available on Internet sites and cable TV. Our stories must offer context, deep analysis and original reporting to enhance our readers’ understanding of each day’s major events.

Read the rest after the jump…

    Integrity: Every employee of the Times has an obligation to maintain the highest ethical standards for journalism and business. That commitment begins with ensuring that every story is accurate, precise, fair and balanced. It also requires that we maintain a bright line between news coverage and the advocacy of the editorial and opinion pages. It means using confidential sources aggressively but responsibly to break the biggest news of the day, but governing those source relationships with clear rules that secure the confidence of our readership. Together, we will craft a new code of conduct that encapsulates these goals and addresses some of the unique challenges of the 21st century and the digital era.

    Convergence: We must leapfrog over the industry’s incremental efforts to adapt to the demands of the digital marketplace and create the first truly converged news operation of the 21st century. That means creating a content stream that flows 24 hours, seven days a week through our Web and digital products. It means adapting our story telling to incorporate audio, video, interactivity and social networking. Our readers should be able to experience, engage and interact with the news and to take action if they so choose based on the information we provide them. It means reporters and editors must engage readers in a two-way dialog through blogging, forums and other Web tools to ensure our audiences develop a deeper understanding of the issues we cover and the ways we cover them. And it means we must pursue partnerships with other media to further the reach of our compelling journalism and to extend the shelf life of our best stories beyond the traditional 12-hour window of print journalism.

    Enterprise: The Times will distinguish itself in the marketplace and grow readership by producing cutting-edge enterprise stories that uncover issues others have overlooked, ignored or failed to notice. These stories will hold political, government, corporate and cultural leaders accountable and will substantially impact the national and global dialog. Such enterprise must be highly converged and adapted to the digital marketplace. The newsroom will create a dedicated multimedia investigative team freed from daily spot coverage to produce a continuous stream of high-impact investigative journalism. But the responsibility to break news and develop deep, distinguishing enterprise rests with each and every reporter and editor.

    Innovation: The information marketplace of today demands that content providers relentlessly pursue new and innovative ways to convey information to audiences already awash in an endless stream of data. Every aspect of our daily tasks — design, presentation, assignment, writing, reporting, editing, audience engagement — must adapt to these demands so that our products take readers to the next great frontier of content. The Google empire was conceived in a college dorm room, and built in a suburban garage rented by college students. It is my hope that the Times newsroom will be the birthplace of many new exciting, market-grabbing strategies grown from your own spirit of creativity. This spirit of innovation must be augmented by a culture of continuous learning about our readership and the tools we have to engage them.

    Collaboration: The Times’ greatest asset is not its building, masthead or printing presses. It’s the men and women who gather, report, write, edit, print, distribute, advertise and market our news each day. The most successful and converged newsrooms leverage this great human asset by fostering an environment that values the free exchange of ideas, recognizes great concepts grow from the ground up and encourages collaboration and teamwork to achieve success. Over the next months we will reshape our newsroom to maximize these values, creating teams that share common missions, civil discourse and a license to innovate.

    Profitability: If we want to honor the principles that the Times was founded upon and secure the unwavering respect of our readers, we must produce a suite of news products that are so compelling that they pay for themselves and grow the future resources of the Times. We must chart a course toward profitability that validates the true market value of all our work and frees the newsroom from a legacy of subsidization. This great challenge will require many hard choices about spending resources wisely. And it will demand that each of us innovate, collaborate and execute at a higher level than ever before. But climbing this mountain and reaching the summit will bring enormous dividends — in legitimacy, staying power and credibility.