Too much passion is never enough

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I’ve been meaning to post on Jeff Jarvis’ and Rafat Ali’s lamentations re: the lack of passion  from professional journalists at the Online News Association confab. I haven’t done so because I’m having a hard time articulating my reaction without sounding like I’m in a snit. I’m not, but I am a bit surprised by their surprise at the state of affairs.

Rafat:

This is perhaps the most exciting time to be an online journalist, at
the most exciting time in the media sphere. Yet, at ONA, where was the
passion? Where was the excitement about working in the most innovative
time in the history of media? In its place what I see is self-doubt,
existential crisis, a siege mentality….

Above all, where’s the entrepreneurship? The Web 2.0 thing, while
may have been over hyped, at least has something at the core of it:
innovation, on the cheap, and available to all. These are people who
believe, and believe me, that’s half the battle won. Why is that
mentality not coming to journalism, and specifically online journalism?
Why isn’t more startup culture being encouraged at media companies?
Yes, they’ll start blogs on their site, but beyond that, what? Why
aren’t journalists being encouraged to be entrepreneurs, and the other
way around? When will we have our version of the
young-out-of-school-entrepreneurs amongst us? Isn’t the passion of
creation the most basic of drivers? Where is that?

This strikes me as really disingenuous, coming (and being seconded) from a couple of guys who have largely left the MSM behind to blaze new trails.

It’s almost passe’ to describe why the largely publicly traded MSM has all kinds of short-term disincentives to think long-term. (I think some of the first articulations of this that inspired me were on BuzzMachine.)

Guys, the entrepreneurs are, well, entrepreneurs. They’ve abandoned ship, jumped for the lifeboats and are now paddling like hell.

I look around our office and see 23 people, all professionally trained (if early in their careers); who are passionate; who are excited about innovation; and who know from startup culture — We still pay in canned sodas and hope. Some of these folks have mortgages — all have other things they could be doing with their time.

Where’s the passion? It’s here in the incubator, not in intensive care. And we’ll take all the help we can get.

You want start-up culture? Look to the start-ups.

Mike Orren is the Chief Product Officer of The Dallas Morning News; President of Belo Business Intelligence; husband to Crystal Orren; and a Mungarian at Munger Place Church in Dallas, TX. All opinions herein are mine alone.