Editor’s Note: Ken Doctor will speak at the 2013 ONA Convention. For more information or to register, click here.

By Ken Doctor, from Nieman Journalism Lab

It takes at least three special qualities to be in — much less to enter — the newspaper business these days. We can borrow them from L. Frank Baum: heart, courage, and smarts. 2012 marked unprecedented change in the top leadership and ownership at American dailies.

The end of the year is a good stopping point to consider the most influential captains of this industry. Who will prove lionhearted or chicken-hearted? Who, looking into the deepening abyss of advertising loss, can maintain fortitude? Who has the intel, or is acquiring it, to navigate a new course?

Certainly, news gathering and news distribution, a.k.a. journalism, in the second decade of the 21st century isn’t only about the poobahs. Here at the Lab, and in my Newsonomics columns over the year, we’ve focused much on innovation and the innovators. Surely, companies and products from KPCC, California Watch, The Lens, and Texas Tribune to NewsCred, Quartz, and The Huffington Post to The Verge and BuzzFeed are changing news as we know it. But they are changing it slowly. They are seeds — a few of which will sprout into major operations, while others will be hybridized into news creatures yet unborn. (It also isn’t just about the U.S., though we can be myopic about that. Check out CJR’s recent piece on cutbacks in the European press.)

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