The last thing newspapers need

I’m still shaking my head over the American Press Institute’s announcement of a closed-door, invitation-only emergency meeting of only CEO-level newspaper executives to, in the words of E&P “ponder ways to revive the newspaper business.”

This is the last thing the newspaper industry needs.

First, these are the very same proprietors of the newspaper industry’s decline. What they need is not the same old executives but new people with new ideas. That’s what I brought into my summit on new business models for news and I wish I’d had time to bring in 20 more innovators who are executing new ideas.

I also wish I had invited more people from other industries to bring other perspectives. At Davos last year, I ran a session at which technology executives – among them, VC Joe Schoendorf, LinkedIn’s Reed Hoffman, and Cisco chief John Chambers – scolded newspaper exeutives for giving up and not reinventing their industry. At my summit, a technology executive observed that the news people – as far as they’d come – were unwilling to “take the leap.” The industry needs to hear these worldviews: tough love.

Second, closed-door is exactly wrong. What they should be doing is asking for help, ideas, perspectives, models, worldviews, and suggestions from outside their industry.

Instead, they will be “a facilitated discussion of concrete steps the industry can take to reverse its declines in revenue, profit and shareholder value.”

If they haven’t figured out those steps by new, I’d say getting them into a room together isn’t going to do it.

The facilitator, James Shein of Northwestern’s management school, told E&P: “It’s important for companies to see how far along the ‘crisis curve’ they’ve traveled, and there are concrete steps organizations can take to halt and even reverse that journey. We’ll use those tools to illuminate for newspaper industry leaders the urgency of their situation, and lay out the steps they will need to take to begin the renewal process.”

If they don’t know by now how urgent it is, then I’d say they’ve failed the vision and IQ test. Any foodl could see that newspapers’ straits are dire.

The summit is only two days away, but if I were the API, I’d fly in people from Google and a bunch of successful tech companies as well as innovators and entrepreneurs in news and let them do all the talking.