Wednesday, August 03, 2005

New York Times merging newsrooms

I've also posted this on Common Sense Journalism, but I'm reposting it here for the consideration of students and others who may visit this blog:

One of the more significant items to drop into Jim Romenesko's inbox yesterday was the memo from Bill Keller and Martin Nisenholtz that the New York Times is merging its online and print newsrooms.

It seemed to me there were two very significant quotes:
The reporting and editing staff at the original newsroom is much more at ease with the Web, more eager to embrace it both as an opportunity for invention and an alternative way to reach our demanding audience.
and

The change embodied in this integration will be gradual but important. For quite a few years now, we've sworn allegiance to the modern-sounding doctrine of "platform neutrality" -- meaning we care only about our journalism, not about whether we transmit it to our audience on paper or via streams of electrons. But in practice most of us have been writing and editing newspaper articles, or taking pictures or making charts and graphs for the newspaper, while a few of us have been taking this work and adapting it for the Web.

By integrating the newsrooms we plan to diminish and eventually eliminate the difference between newspaper journalists and Web journalists -- to reorganize our structures and our minds to make Web journalism, in forms that are both familiar and yet-to-be-invented, as natural to us as writing and editing, and to do all of this without losing the essential qualities that make us The Times. Our readers are moving, and so are we.
Read that last one carefully. The debate still exists in some quarters as to whether journalists really need cross-media training. End of debate. If you want to work for the one of the premier news organizations, as Keller and Nisenholtz put it, you'd better start rorganizing your mind.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brock Meeks of MSNBC.com here:

Nice to see the Great Grey Lady finally treating her online employees like something other than the proverbial red-headed step child... it's the word eventually that bothers me.

I suppose when I see the Pulitzer committee drop its bias toward print and include online journalism among its potential award winners I'll believe our print collegaues have really caught on.

Beyond that, Doug says this shift by the NYT ends the debate as to whether a journalist needs "cross-media training." But this begs the question: what do you mean by "cross media training"?

A few years ago I came within a whisker of signing a nice, fat contract with the Los Angeles Times; they came after me, trying to lure me away from my gig here at MSNBC.com. (I declined for various reasons, essentially when I had the pen in my hand ready to sign on the dotted line.)

During my interview process at the LAT, one of the national desk editors asked me: "How would you write differently for the paper than you have for the web?"

I asked him that was a trick question. He wasn't amused.

There is no major difference in the writing; there is no need for that kind of "cross media" training.

So I can only imagine that Doug is talking about a journalist having to develop a skill set that takes into account visual and audio areas as well. So, no longer are you just a "print reporter" but also a photographer/videographer and a "radio reporter" as well. A triple threat.

If that seems overwhelming, relax; take a deep breath because here's the dirty little secret of the online world: there are no triple threats running around. Reason: turf wars.

In online media companies you have the "print team" and the "media team" and the "media team" takes a dim view of when the reporters try to stretch their wings and start bringing pictures or sound to the table as well as their written story.

I've been trying to break through that "media team" wall for five years. Yes, five years. And I've finally put a big crack in it.

I think reporters today shouldhave multiple skill sets... I'm just afraid that they're aren't a whole lot of places willing to let them run with those skills.

3:00 PM  
Blogger Doug Fisher said...

Brock:

Thanks for the great comment. I'm not so much talking about being a "triple threat" as I am being a person who recognizes those other media exist and can see how they can help you tell your story. What that produces is a journalist who may not be a jack of all trades -- and probably shouldn't be -- but can communicate with the other branches of the business and can effectively marshal resources and people to produce the best journalism possible. Of course, in the process, some of the other skills are bound to rub off, so while the person may not be a triple threat, he or she eventually might well score a double.
It gets back to persuading writers their talent in storytelling is innately multimedia, if done well, and they should have more faith in that than focus on medium.
Doug

3:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brock Meeks_MSNBC.com:

We are in complete agreement, Doug. I think it would help a reporter tremendously to work in a "team" approach, in which during the reporting there is a "media" person of one sort or another involved at the front end of the story to help best shape the piece for the online medium.

Sadly, that rarely happens at MSNBC.com. A reporter does a story and then, almost as an afterthought, tosses a note to the media team saying, "hey, I need some main art for a story on XYZ..." and the media team tosses a few key words into a wire picture browser and ::Presto:: your story is "illustrated"... and the dream of true interactive journalism dies a little more each time.

There are a few "outlaws" inside MSBNC.com that have and continue to push for the melding story telling and media. We push long form audio; we're pushing the envelope of melding short form narrative with the photo-essay.

After more than 15 years in online journalism, I'm just now starting to get interested in its potential. :)

4:05 PM  

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