Stéphane Mayoux: ‘Local news is often what brings communities together’

“Digital transformation is about risk taking, hard work and bringing talent and strengths together,” says Stéphane Mayoux, one of the coaches of WAN-IFRA’s new Table Stakes Europe initiative.

by Brian Veseling | December 12, 2019

The programme got underway in October 2019 with 15 local news publishers from seven countries across Europe – all working on performance challenges relating to the digital news business.

Supported by the Google News Initiative, Table Stakes Europe builds upon the successful track record of a US initiative designed and led by Doug Smith.

Mayoux is a key member of the coaching team, along with Alexandra Borchardt and Nick TjaardstraAfter earning a pan-European MBA that took him from France, to the UK and Germany, Mayoux began his journalism career in print and then moved to broadcast and has worked with the BBC since the mid-1990s, where he spent many years in live radio and television news.

He has spent more than half his life abroad, including in post-apartheid South Africa.

In June 2018 he qualified as a psychotherapeutic counsellor, giving him perfect coaching credentials. We recently asked him about what attracted him to Table Stakes Europe and how his experiences will help him in working with participants.

WAN-IFRA: What’s the most interesting aspect of Table Stakes Europe for you?

Stéphane Mayoux: The “why” of Table Stakes Europe is definitely the most exciting aspect our sense of mission. From my perspective, solid, reliable, relevant local news is a societal, democratic need. Because of the on-going tech revolution, quality news publishers have been operating under threat. Their quality ethos has been jeopardised.

“Local news is often what brings communities together, it does act as a social gel, at a time in our history where communities and even countries are getting split.”

Doug Smith’s methodology aims to support quality, local news organisations, make them prosper, take them through radical changes. In that sense, Table Stakes Europe’s mission is to contribute to vibrant, inclusive and well informed local communities. That’s definitely exciting.

What are some of the things from your experience that you can apply when coaching Table Stakes Europe participants?

I hope I can bring three things. First, I have been a BBC journalist for over 20 years. Telling relevant, impactful stories got me going, gave me energy all this time. I’ve had successes and many failures too, but there is a vitality in story-telling that I hope might bring me and participants closer together.

Second, as a coach, I’ve been involved in three years of a digital transformation within the BBC.

“Having worked with over 400 BBC journalists, I’ve now got a first-hand experience of what the challenges are, how company and team cultures need to shift, how vital it is to bring people together around a shared mission.”

I am also aware that there is no magic wand. Digital transformation is about risk taking, hard work and bringing talent and strengths together.

Finally, I am professionally and personally interested in what facilitates or hinders change within people.

“For structures to change, as required in digital transformation, individuals need to change too. They must take ownership and hold themselves accountable. So I am always curious about what happens within people when they are called upon to take risks, to stretch themselves.”

I like working at close quarters with individuals and small teams who want to drive and foster change, who are ready to be bold. I have experience of this. I hope it will help.

Most importantly, I am a learner. Table Stakes is a powerful and sophisticated tool. I want to learn it fully to be able to deliver it with impact. I also want to learn about each and every company I will be working with, their ethos, their audiences, their territories.

Who are some coaches you have admired?

I come from Toulouse, in the south of France, the home of French rugby. So my coaching references are very much rugby-centered, even if our national team’s performance is not what we have been hoping for. Yet.

One great coach was Pierre Berbizier, a former French scrum-half who was in charge of France during the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa. We didn’t go all the way. But Berbizier realised that at this point in time, there was something more important at stake in the country, a year after Nelson Mandela came to power through the country’s first democratic elections. Berbizier wanted to win. He also had a broader vision. He was able to place his craft in a wider context, taking a wider, wiser perspective. It taught me a lot.

The other reference coach is less political. His name is Guy Noves, the most successful French club coach in history. He was 10 times French champion and four times European champion with his club, Toulouse. His record speaks for itself. I look up to him.

What’s the best book you have read about transformation or managing change and why?

I am truly interested in internal transformation, in how to initiate or manage the changes required from within oneself, within one individual. So my choice might be a bit left-field.

I am going to choose a writer who is indeed deeply rooted in psychology, and that’s Irvin Yalom, a leading American psychotherapist. I’d recommend two books, either “Creatures of a Day,” or “Love’s Executioner.” They are truly deep, inspiring, sometimes funny and always moving books about how our fellow human beings are able to get an understanding of what is happening inside them. And of course how a kind, curious and trained outsider can accompany that process.

There are publishers from seven countries participating in Table Stakes. Do you think there are national differences in how publishers approach challenges? E.g. French publishers as opposed to German ones, etc?

I don’t think I am qualified to speak about national differences between European publishers. So far, I have been speaking to newspapers from four different countries and I have got the feeling though that the challenges are fairly similar cross the board.

The desire to face them is also equally present. I’ve now spent our first three-day workshop with them all, and I can definitely confirmed that the desire is indeed very widely shared!

To learn more about Table Stakes Europe, click here.

To see which publishers are taking part, click here.

The Table Stakes Europe programme for local and regional news organisations is created through a collaboration of WAN-IFRA and Table Stakes architect Doug Smith in partnership with the Google News Initiative.

See our other articles about Table Stakes Europe:

Tables Stakes Europe off to enthusiastic start

Stéphane Mayoux: ‘Local news is often what brings communities together’

Alexandra Borchardt: ‘Table Stakes puts quality journalism at the core’

Now in Europe, Table Stakes aims to help local news publishers

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