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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Why newsrooms should integrate web and print

Knowing that I worked on a major newsroom integration project at the Telegraph in London, it will come as no surprise that I think integrating web and print is a good idea.

I was reading a Jeff Jarvis post about it and liked the way he put it:

"At the end of the day...we know this: Every journalist needs every tool to gather and tell every story how best it should be told. Every reader/listener/viewer/user should be able to get the news however, whenever, and wherever he or she wants. News operations won’t be able to afford the inefficiency of separate staffs all putting out the same news. And that’s why I think consolidation is inevitable."

I agree. More than that, news companies need to see themselves as news providers, not as newspapers or news websites. They need to get their content out to as many audiences as they can, in as many formats as they can, if they are to remain relevant. If you are publishing to mutiple formats, the logical way to go about it is to create the content in a neutral format and then modify it as required for each platform. Write into a neutral text editor, then mark it up for mobile, web and print as required. Writing for one format, then having to parse it to another is invariably a fag and terribly inefficient.

Jeff raises another good point in his post:

"One could consolidate too much and, in the words of one of my students, turn every journalist into an eight-armed monster — and do a halfassed job in any medium."

Yep, that's a danger, in the medium term anyway. But it needn't be so. The following points are worth making again and again. Yes, you must modernise your newsroom. Yes, you must tell stories in different formats where appropriate. Yes, you must move faster than you used to if you are to give your mobile and online audiences what they want. But no, it does not mean that every journalist has to file audio, video, text and timelines for every story every day. It means they need to talk to their editors about the best formats for telling this story on this day. It means the editors must make decisions about the best use of newsroom resources (reporters' time, equipment, studio time etc), and about the stories they think are relevant and interesting to their readers.

News judgement and resource management don't disappear in an integrated newsroom. They are central to it.