McClatchy VP Weaver Goes ‘Wiki’ on Industry Crisis

By: Joe Strupp

Howard Weaver, McClatchy’s vice president/news, has already made something of a name for himself as a blogger. In recent months, as his media company has undergone some of its harshest job cuts and economic troubles, Weaver has turned to blogging in an effort to both field input and offer explanations.

The blog, titled “Etaoin Shrdlu” — which reflects the letter order on an old linotype machine — dates back to 2006, with Weaver opining on all matter of news issues related to various company properties and events.

“I wanted a good venue to talk about the things I was doing,” Weaver said Wednesday. “It helps me organize and articulate my thoughts.”

Check out the blog here.

Last month, when the company announced plans to cut 10% of the workforce, approximately 1,400 jobs, Weaver blogged: “I can assure you that thousands of McClatchy employees, like me, will take some time to grieve the loss of colleagues being laid off and to curse the conditions that led to it, and then go back to work producing quality public service journalism.”

His items have ranged from promoting the work of McClatchy and non-McClatchy news outlets to commenting on such non-newspaper issues as the budget of the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Bob Dylan’s music.

When the Newseum opened in April, Weaver offered criticism, stating: “it seems self-referential to the point of hubris.” But, the same month, he also admitted his own mistake after hearing some staffers at the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., opposed his staying at an expensive hotel during a recent visit: “They’re right in reminding me that examples matter.”

On Tuesday, however, Weaver took the effort a step further, creating a wiki-type site that seeks employee and non-employee ideas and thoughts that will be organized into subjects and issues for potential consideration.

McClatchyNext purports to be a Wikipedia-like site where anyone can offer views and ideas that will be better organized than just the blog, according to Weaver. “The blog is a clumsy way to do it,” he told E&P. “The wiki takes the collaborative process and organizes it a little better.”

Dividing discussions and viewpoints into subjects such as “ideas that worked,” “ideas that might work,” “ideas that did not work,” and “mad as hell,” the site essentially creates numerous smaller blogs, with space for comment on any postings.

“It’s a wiki, the same basic format as the infinitely editable Wikipedia, intended as a way to collect ideas, argue about them and save information and reference points in ways we can all easily share and retrieve,” the opening page states. “If it works, it will be a more coherent version of the comments I very much appreciate at my blog — better organized, easier to follow, more accessible.

“I?ve never created or managed a wiki before, so it may be a little clumsy from time to time. But learning new formats and new forms of communication is an essential ingredient in becoming part of tomorrow?s conversations anyhow.”

Weaver encourages McClatchy employees and non-employees alike to offer postings. Anonymous users are allowed, but all must register with a name and an e-mail address.

“As an editor, I have always told people that journalism concentrates on problems because that’s what needs attention,” said Weaver, 57, who has been with McClatchy since 1979. “If it works, I will steal the good ideas and put them in the paper.”

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