The origins of Touchstone News Consulting came in my days as vice president for news of Lee Enterprises.
I enjoyed the role as counselor to the editors of Lee's newspapers and websites. But I found that it wasn't always my advice they valued most: They were always looking for good ideas that had been tested elsewhere, something they could emulate or steal (or "honor" as I would describe it).
They were looking for stories to tackle, new features to try, new approaches to reach readers (whether in print or digital). Of course, they wanted to adapt the idea to fit their market or their perception of the needs of local readers.
They were looking for a touchstone against which the quality of their ideas could be tested.
In forming Touchstone News Consulting, my goal was to provide editors and publishers with ideas for improving their products, for launching new products, and for identifying ways to make their operations more efficient and effective.
Unfortunately, the economy had other ideas. While the news business was already challenging when I left Lee Enterprises in December 2007, it became more challenging quickly. The focus for most editors and publishers shifted to cutting costs, not product improvement. I did my best to advise them how to do this in a way that would preserve the most essential and strategic content -- and the resources to do those things.
I reminded people: even in reverse, you need to watch where you're going.
After 30 months as a consultant, I returned to the daily business as executive editor of the Springfield (MO) News-Leader, a part of the Gannett Co. (You can follow my "Letter from the Editor" blog and read my columns there.)
In my new role, I'm determined to continue to search for good ideas, to look for ways to make our newspapers, websites, mobile products and niche publications better -- and more appealing to key audiences.
That's my continuing dream, and as Henry David Thoreau wrote: "Dreams are the touchstones of our character."