Chris March is disrupting our newsroom

9 Dec

I just wanted to write a job description that included the words “blowing stuff up.”

That’s what Chris March’s new role will be at the New Haven Register and Journal Register Company’s other newsrooms in Connecticut.

Chris March

He’s been promoted to Assistant Managing Editor for Disruption and is an integral part of a bigger newsroom reorganization announced last week.

Go ahead, poke fun at the future-of-journalism pretentiousness of that title. But we wanted to send a strong message to our staff and our audience. We must, and we intend to, disrupt how we’ve operated for decades.

“We can’t afford to think and act like a newspaper anymore,” Chris said. “We can’t keep doing things a certain way because ‘that’s how we’ve always done that.’ That’s the reality. When you look at the Journal Register Connecticut newsrooms like that, you start to see things that don’t make as much sense as when we started doing them or when we had a bigger staff. That’s what we have to disrupt, or rethink.”

That includes many aspects of our internal, print edition-focused newsroom operation. That includes how we gather news and how we present it. That includes our definition of “news” and “content” and “journalism.” And that most certainly includes how we interact with and treat our audience.

We’re shifting significant resources away from print and toward Breaking News, Community Engagement and Investigative and In-Depth Reporting. To start, Chris will be leading us through the changes in technology and process that are needed to pull this off.

“I think some of the things we’ve started to dismantle and rethink already as part of our newsroom reorganization, such as how we approach election coverage, moderate online comments and engage with the community, is going to start making some big noise in a really meaningful way for us.”

Chris is quite literally a newspaper kid. His mother, Nancy, is editor of The Mercury, a JRC daily in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, and his father, Bill, is managing editor of The Daily Local, a JRC daily in nearby West Chester. “Growing up, they told me to get into anything but writing and newspapers, because of the hours and low pay. And I didn’t argue with that, because why would I?” he said. “But when I was captain of my high school cross country team … I started writing and publishing a weekly newspaper. And that was it. By accident, I stumbled across that joy of capturing a little community in words and watching everyone pass it around and talk about it. I haven’t wanted to do anything other than that since. Plus, it’s cool to rebel against your parents, right?”

Chris graduated from Penn State with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He wrote about the punk and indie music scene for absolutepunk.net in college, which led to some freelance work in music and entertainment.

In 2007, he joined The Mercury as Promotions and Marketing Coordinator, and in May 2010, he moved to Connecticut to work at the New Haven Register as an online producer. In August of that year, Chris was named to Journal Register Company’s Idea Lab, which equips members with tech tools and frees them up to spend 25 percent of their work week experimenting on new ideas.

He lives in New Haven.

“My modus operandi is discovery and exploration. That extends from music and travel to beer and community journalism. I like being one of those people who sniffs around for the little places where truth and all-out-radness are waiting to be discovered. That’s why I like what we’re doin here at JRC and the New Haven Register right now. We’re exploring. And we’re discovering. And I’m very proud to be a part of that,” he said. “I grew up at a dinner table where the talk was often about how the newspaper business is broken, and a dead end. Now I sit down at the dinner table and talk about how we’re fixing it, and making it a road with possibility and promise.”

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7 Responses to “Chris March is disrupting our newsroom”

  1. jordan fenster December 9, 2011 at 9:33 am #

    Whenit comes to disruption, Chris is THE man. Of course, he disrupts with a measured eye toward metrics and a desire that everything be disrupted with respect and careful attention, so he is the nicest, um, disruptor I know.

  2. Twitter: @DavidAmerland December 9, 2011 at 10:13 am #

    It’s about time we saw a newspaper begin to embrace disruption rather than pretend it’s not happening and the fault lies with a public which “does not read that much any more”. Brilliant!

  3. Tim Frost December 9, 2011 at 7:10 pm #

    I’ve read the Register for years, and it’s been pretty crappy for a while. If you’re shifting resources away from print, doesn’t that mean it’s going to get even crappier? And, if that’s the case, why bother with it at all?

    • mattderienzo December 9, 2011 at 7:15 pm #

      Tim, we’re shifting resources away from the process that goes into producing a print edition – for example, editor positions whose primarily responsibility is to decide what goes in a weekly print section or daily themed print page. We’re putting those resources into better journalism. More news coverage, faster news coverage, and news coverage that provides more depth, insight and context for readers. The print edition is just a vehicle for presenting what really matters – the journalism that we do.

  4. Pam McLoughlin December 10, 2011 at 10:56 pm #

    Well, we sure are keeping it interesting! I’m glad we got more detail on this position…..Good Luck to you Chris. Seems you have a lot of freedom to make the job/position what you want it to be…..It’s an exciting time in journalism! pam

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Leading a Digital First newsroom « The Buttry Diary - December 22, 2011

    [...] in that job. You may want to create an entirely new job, such as Chris March’s new gig as assistant managing editor for disruption at the New Haven Register. Connecticut Group Editor Matt DeRienzo‘s job description for Chris [...]

  2. A quiz to teach journalists about plagiarism and attribution « The Buttry Diary - February 7, 2012

    [...] starts with good research; the problem is the failure to attribute.) I developed the questions and Chris March set the quiz up. Matt made sure that every journalist in our Connecticut newsrooms took the quiz, [...]

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