‘Go hang out with the customer’

Geneva Overholser

Veteran journalist Geneva Overholser delivered the 44th Hays Press-Enterprise Lecture last night — her topic was “Better Days to Come: Seeing the promise in journalism’s upheaval” — and repeated the advice of an Annenberg innovator-in-residence: Go hang out with the customer.

That is SO not what we have been doing in journalism. I remember at the Des Moines Register, when we were having to reduce the size of the newspaper and really grapple with what was critically imporatn, I asked members of my staff to go out in their neighborhoods and talk to people. Well, you’d have thought I’d asked them to shame themselves in some vile and degrading way.

Overholser pointed out that hanging with customers is easier to do now than it’s ever been, “because the customers — the people formerly known as the audience, as Jay Rosen has said — are everywhere.”

* “Better days to come: Seeing the promise in journalism’s upheaval”