How should we tech out a newsroom?

I’ve been thinking back over my job interview over the last few days and the skills I thought it was necessary for a multi-platform, multi-media journalist to have.

It got me thinking.

It’s all very well deciding how you want journalists of the future to think about producing stories, but what is the best envrionment in order to enable that to happen?

Last year Mark Glaser over at MediaShift outlined his vision of how a multimedia “new newsroom” (NNR) might operate.

He talks of journalists being platform agnostic – choosing different mediums dependant on the qualities of the story and community input.

Not every story would get the multimedia treatment. That determination might be made by editorial staff at the start of the story idea, or it could be made on the fly depending on what media comes in from the community. The important overriding credo is that NNR will deliver the news in whatever way the community craves and is economically feasible, including online video, audio, print, online, mobile, TV or radio. Each locality will decide what’s necessary to meet their needs.

This pretty much aligns to my idea of the newsroom of the future – not everyone will be able to create media on all platforms equally well, but they will all have a good idea of the pros and cons of each and how they benefit a story.

But understanding the benefits of multiple platforms needs someone to use these platforms regularly. Training only goes so far. If you do not use YouTube or Facebook, for example, how can you really understand how they can be used in story telling?

The same is true of different hardware. Learning how best to tell a story through a PC, may have some differences to communicating it via a Mac. And it will certainly be different to telling it via a Nokia mobile and different again on an iPhone.

But when a large organisation invests in IT, there is usually a bulk deal agreed to supply one particular type of technology to all staff.

This might lead to homogenous tech landscape in an office which, I think, may put journalists at a disadvantage when it comes to innovating.

So, what platforms should be made available to journalists in their newsrooms?

Well, being someone who LOVES gadgets and will also be working in newsrooms I am, of course, a bit bias.

I’d like to see an array of Macs and PCs, lots of podcasting tools, access to iPhones and other mobiles and (and here is where I might be going a bit too far) access to a range of gaming platforms.

I’d like to see newsrooms have Wiis!

And yes, ok, that might be so I can play Wii Sports during my lunchbreak. But gaming consoles are also no longer just for gaming – many people watch DVDs, listening to music and surf the Internet through them.

Perhaps it isn’t such a mad suggestion that journalists should be learning how people might experience their work over these platforms as well?

5 thoughts on “How should we tech out a newsroom?

  1. “If you do not use YouTube or Facebook, for example, how can you really understand how they can be used in story telling?”

    And if some of your best writers are not interested in blogging…

    Without wishing to upset former colleagues in various newsrooms (!), newspaper offices are very insular and closed environments in so many respects.
    Change = bad, like in so many other aspects of life.

    It needs a significant culture change which won’t be achieved easily – old printing vs electronic; b&w vs colour; tabloid vs broadsheet. All these “battles” have been fought and won (not sure about the tabloid one though) since I became a trainee 20(ish) years ago and they all took time.

    But having a very good, respected, enthusiastic journalist as Development Editor pushing the sort of ideas you’ve listed above and explaining to peers why they would make their job easier and better is a big step in the right direction.

    Training is very important, but not necessarily the traditional HR-approved format. Some former colleagues I’ve spoken to – either still in newspapers or doing other things – still can’t get their head around the idea that “play” and all the things they do at home (Facebook et al, games consoles, gadgets generally, trawling the web etc) are things that fit perfectly into this new way of working.

    Good luck!

  2. I’m not sure how to best answer the question but a more general thought sprang to mind which might apply. It’s unrealistic, I think, for journalists to use everything in the media toolbox just as it’s unreaslistic to expect them to use everything in the current journo toolbox. The trick, I think, is to get them to explain how they currently do their job, from chasing down leads to managing information, and investigate ways they can use digital tools to compliment and improve that.

    So someone who does a lot of face-to-face could use a portable audio recorder and produce podcast-type shows by editing that together. Someone who does a lot of online research could use delicious or similar. Someone who does a lot of opinion-style writing could benefit from the feedback on a blog. You’ll know the better examples but that’s how I’d approach it.

    Maybe provide packages of tech kit for each general sort of journo in your team? An audio kit, a blogging kit, a video kit, that sort of thing.

  3. Pingback: Kitting out media for the future « Gary Andrews

  4. Good points Jo.

    I think there is still a culture of skills for a role rather than skills for life in some newsrooms. People are not in a mindset to play. Not their fault. They are in an industry where training has traditionally been something you where sent on or rewarded with.

    Play, exploration with a low expectation of return ie.we don’t expect you to generate 12 stories from this. Is, for me, the only way to get people excited about stuff.

    But as Paul points out that’s a mindset issue to change and not an easy one.

    As for the media shift idea of a newsroom. I think its good but without the background level of interaction with technology you are talking about it becomes a bit like that ‘known unknowns’ speech. How are you supposed to know what will make a good story on video if you don’t know.

    There is a lot more groundwork to do with hearts and minds.

    As for a Wii…I think that’s a great idea but I think many in your newsroom will moan at the head start you have on the Wii but will keep shtum when they see you boxing 🙂

  5. You’ll no doubt benefit from having a big pile of stuff to take out and about – cameras, fancy phones, etc – and from the range of hosted services – YouTube, Vimeo, etc – you can call upon. However, every now and again you’ll need to run a bit of software of your own devising, need to host some collosally large file, or some such. In which case, you need a publically visible server you can call your own. It probably doesn’t need to be particularly powerful, it doesn’t need to be in your office, it doesn’t even need to actually exist (a virtual machine slice would serve just as well), but it needs to be yours and under your direct control.

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