Knowledge Leadership, the News Media, Trust, and Enabling Learning Lessons in Baltimore

As I watched CNN’s New Day this week, I am struck by the focus of the anchors that seem to singularly report on the negatives of a particular story or event, rarely if ever trying to discover or to focus on any of the effective processes or practices that are being executed or have taken place during this tragedy.

I watched this morning as Chris Cuomo (CNN New Day) “interviewed” the Mayor of Baltimore, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. He struggled mightily to force the mayor into stating that the real answers to the Grey arrest and subsequent outcome in Baltimore would not be publicly forthcoming and to cast this from a perspective of a lack of transparency and a cover up. The Mayor was focused on trying to explain that there is a process that is being followed by the City and that the City would continue to follow the investigative process. Over the past few days, over a previous set of interviews, there appeared to be a clear recognition to leverage the lessons to be learned from Ferguson, New York, and other cities about how to handle the release of investigation results and outcomes. In my mind, an effective use of learned lessons applied to current processes and practices, which in this case, related to release of investigation results, should be recognized. But this was not going to be the focus of Mr Cuomo’s reporting.

On scene or studio interviews are most often introduced and facilitated from the perspective of only what went wrong and who is accountable, rarely creating a news discovery and reporting environment where the interview subjects feel safe to be able to truly think through to what can be explained and learned from what happened.

We know that when bad things happen and the focus is consistently on who is to blame, rarely do people believe it is safe to truly talk about what they know, and consequently, it takes much, much longer to understand what happened and what could be done differently in the future.  Interviews like the one above, and the reporting model demonstrated, are often a contributor to this environment of mistrust because the role as an independent and necessary voice for the public is often overcome by ratings and revenues.

The “facilitation “of the news story that the anchors conduct on air is as stated above, often more of an inquisition, than an inquiry, further ensuring that the outcome of the segment not only won’t get to a true and objective understanding of the news event and its related background and causes, but also helps to ensure that the news story is more about the anchor and their ratings, rather than the understanding and lesson learning that is required for lasting solutions.

Finally, a quick interview on the street or in the studio is not a replacement for a carefully planned and facilitated conversation to capture knowledge, make sense out of it, and then to reinvest it in improving performance or solving problems, but it is a place to start if that is truly what the outcome is that you want.

Some questions to consider?

What if the focus was focused on inquiry, rather than the inquisition?  And… Would the positive leverage that news media can create help to find the necessary learnings to solve challenges and address situations like this in Baltimore more effectively and more quickly?

What if the anchors were truly to focus on “inquiry, rather than inquisition,” would the audience gain a better, more objective understanding of what happened, why, and what could be done differently?

Would the ability, then, to understand what exactly is the “critical and relevant knowledge” needed to begin to understand the causes of these types of civic and personal catastrophes, and then to use this understanding to thoughtfully craft solutions to begin to address what are longstanding and unresolved issues, be improved?

We know that when learning lessons is only about finger pointing, rarely are there any real lessons learned.  However, when the environment to safely share the “know why” and “know how” is enabled, and thoughtfully facilitated, the probability of successfully learning lessons and reinvesting that learning in improved process and practices, can make measurable difference in positive performance and the necessary outcomes.