Thursday, 18 June 2009

Trends in newsrooms

What does it feel like to be a journalist on the receiving end of huge changes to your working life because your editors have decided they're going to "integrate" your newsroom? Instead of writing just for a newspaper or just for the web, you're going to have to do both. And you're not only writing but shooting and editing video packages and learning to think "visually", as a storyteller rather than a "mere journalist" (whatever this means).

Thousands of journalists are going through this very process, described in fascinating detail in the World Editors' Forum's Trends in Newsrooms report. (I've just read the 2008 report but there's a 2009 report out as well which is on my reading list). Some journalists are finding the move to integration exciting, especially new journalists like my students, who don't know what a traditional print-only newsroom was like. Others, mid-career people like my journalism colleagues, often find the change terrifying.

But anyone looking for a perspective from the newsroom floor, as I am, won't find much of this in this report. It's written for management and the sub-text is: What are other papers doing to drum up readers and try and get noticed as print journalism implodes and circulations plummet? How are other managers and editors handling the move to integration and especially how are they getting their journalists onside?

There's lots of sound advice about communicating with your staff and the big risk of imposing change too rapidly (some fingers point at the Telegraph at this point). There's a sensible discussion about the importance of rethinking layout of newsrooms. As a journalist on Times Online when we were in a completely different building to the paper, I can definitely vouch for the difficulty of operating an integrated news operation from separate buildings. There's recognition that management needs to spend money on training rather than just expecting print reporters to go out with a video camera.

All good ideas. But how much of a gap is there between the ideal and the reality?

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