April 5, 2008
News organizations seek integration strategies
Chris Lloyd had a few dozen grumpy journalists on his hands when The Daily Telegraph decided to makeover its approach to news and publishing on the web. Lloyd, assistant managing editor for the major London daily, spoke at UT’s International Symposium on Online Journalism about retraining staff and revamping attitudes to meet the needs of the digital age.“We had to change the way we work to suit our audience,” Lloyd said of the newspaper’s restructuring. “[The news] has to meet the needs of the customer, not my needs as the publisher.”
Robert Rivard, editor and executive vice president of the San Antonio Express-News, chaired Lloyd’s panel, “Hybrid Newsrooms for the Digital Age,” which also featured Guillermo Franco, editor of Colombia’s Eltiempo.com; Liza Gross, managing editor for presentations and operations at The Miami Herald; Almar Latour, managing editor for WallStreetJournal.com; and Rich Meislin, associate managing editor for Internet publishing at The New York Times.
Rivard opened with cautiously optimistic remarks about the role of print newspapers in the new media landscape, arguing that even with continued decline in circulation, local papers can meet the needs of a dedicated audience.
“It is a news and information business, but I’m still a newspaper man,” Rivard said. “I don’t believe that T.V. killed radio, and cable news didn’t kill the networks,” he said.
Meislin recalled the New York Times’ progression to becoming a leader in online news models. Ten years ago the Times’ web office was 1 ½ blocks away from the newsroom, Meislin said. But as the Web site evolved, the barriers between reporting and web publishing began to fall.
“We’re putting web people at the news desk,” Meislin said.
Latour recalled similar problems at the Wall Street Journal during his talk about the site’s success with videos.
“WSJ.com started as an entirely separate entity,” Latour said. Now, the Journal has been cultivating a reputation for video stories that are more entertaining than readers might expect from the business journalism powerhouse.
For Gross, collaboration in the newsroom at the Miami Herald is pushed beyond print and online. Gross discussed her paper’s “continuous news desk,” which consists of eight department representatives who perform “news triage” together throughout the day from a setup in the center of the newsroom. Gross said with all the manifestations of the Herald, including print, online, email, text message and radio, the paper faces 41 deadlines in a day, where there were once three or four.
At the Herald, Gross said employees adhere to a “manifesto” that says “Miamiherald.com is not an appendage, it is a fundamental product of the news room.”
Guillermo Franco dazzled the audience with images of Eltiempo’s brand new, multimedia-focused news room. The Colombian news leader has made leaps in physical and technological integration, but he is also currently grappling with the “biggest challenge” of all: cultural integration, Franco said. Like many of the panelists before him, Franco said the effort to transform attitudes from print-centric to web and multimedia-focused is paramount.
“Sometimes journalists get information early in the morning but don’t begin to write until late afternoon,” Franco said. Franco said the goal for the paper is to train reporters to think about and report stories for at least a few platforms.
“To have all ‘backpack journalists’ is not realistic,” said Franco. “What we need is more than one skill – and we’re getting there.”