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Time for 'digital visionaries' to take control of newsrooms?

Newsroom re-organisation to bring online and traditional media staff together seems to have suddenly come to the top of the agenda. In the UK, the Telegraph’s announcement of a new integrated “spoke” newsroom, spiced by the in-fighting, has set people thinking.

In Texas, research at the TV station News 8 Austin, suggests “convergence would go more smoothly if stations would integrate their Web producers into the newsroom”.

Two researchers from the University of Texas, found that some newsroom systems and policies actually make convergence more difficult than it might be otherwise be, according to a summary at Newslab.

The researchers found that the TV station’s web producers did not participate in editorial meetings and felt they had no authority to suggest stories or approaches. The reporters resented the extra work involved in writing stories for the web and the lack of extra pay for it. And sometimes those stories did not get posted until the following day because web staff had gone home.

Roy Greenslade asks Is it time for on-line editors to run newspapers? picking up Steve Outing’s radical solution of putting the “digital visionaries” in charge of the whole operation.

Outing quotes a suggestion that it made sense for the editor responsible for a 24/7 news product to oversee the one-daily print version. He writes:

That’s perhaps a radical thought to many newspaper executives. It argues for putting online at the top of an organization, with the print edition being but one delivery channel for the company’s editorial and advertising content, and thus underneath a central news operation that is responsible for “the news” and distributing it out to various channels.

I suspect that most news executives would agree that this is the direction the industry eventually must go. But the crux of the problem is that for many newspaper executives, it still seems to them as though it’s too early to put online at the top of the corporate heirarchy. After all, the industry is still in a position where print revenues — even though they may be on a slow decline — remain massive, while online revenues continue to grow nicely but still represent a minority percentage of the overall business.

There is an important debate to be had here. And it could be underway at the Telegraph although all we have to go on are the rumours. As Kim Fletcher asked in the Guardian last week: “Who wears the trousers?

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  1. Hugh Martin: Time to consolidate print and online says

    […] I’ve been enjoying Steve Outing’s columns for years, but this one nails an important issue for newspapers in a way few other writers have been able to articulate so succinctly.Here’s a choice quote:”A huge part of the problem is that newspaper companies are still being run, mostly, by people from the print side — and who, though they may attempt to understand interactive media and the needs and media habits of young people, aren’t effective at moving their organizations in a radically different, and necessary, direction. That’s because they’re still too tied to the print business and thus are unwilling to go in directions that might damage it, even if in the long run placing more resources and executive energy into new lines of (digital) business at the expense of the print edition is the right way to go.”A number of Outing’s interviewees suggested that newspapers need to consider putting online people in charge of the entire news operations. He recognises that this is still a very radical idea, and I agree that there aren’t many news operations that would go there yet (are there any?), but I do believe it is unavoidable in the long run.Update: Comments from Roy Greenslade and Andrew grant-Adamson and Matt TerenzioLabels: Newspapers online […]

  2. Web 2.0 Newspapers » Recapping, Rounding Up, Clicking For News (Post 1 of 2) says

    […] Greenslade's fellow British media blogger and journalism instructor Andrew Grant-Adamson explored the question of whether it's time for "digital visionaries" to run the newsrooms. He later comments on the Telegraph turmoil as a sign of possible things to come re: digital newsrooms, integrations and convergences.  […]