Suzanne Yada (@suzanneyada) Tweeted a great topic today. What should a 21st Century Newsroom look like?
If I could have a big pile of money and resources to build a newsroom today, this is what I think I would do for my high school – I think it would also work for a small town or even a community site in a metro area.
– A big pipe: News in the 21st Century means lots of data on the net, both upstream and down. Your reporters are going to need to push video, photos, online magazines, and everything else. The staff and others are going to need plenty of downstream bandwidth too. So, that means Gigabit switches and something more robust than a simple T1 line.
– Tools and training: If money is no object, then buy the best tools you can afford – that means the full Adobe suite of media products (Photoshop, Premiere, Lightroom, Flash, etc.) maybe the Apple one too (Aperture, Final Cut) if you are using Macs. And periodic training to update and improve skills. There are also lots of great free and low cost products out there too. But software is only part of the equation. You need great HD video cameras, microphones, audio recorders, SLR cameras, laptops, desktops, smartphones (maybe tablets too soon). Every reporter needs to have a kit containing a laptop, video camera, SLR camera, smart phone and an audio recorder. Plus all the cables, cards, etc. to make it work. If money is no object, MyFi cards and EyeFi cards too. Make it all wireless and fast. Update live as much as you can.
– A place to meet and a place for community. This needs to be both virtual and physical. A news organization needs to be able to meet in person some times. So you need a meeting space, plus a place for reporters to come in and create things that a laptop just doesn’t do justice on. But you also need to be able to Skype in and meet virtually. Community is important too. You need a place for people to come in and contribute – and feel welcome. Kind of like a public library. But this is not for people to get free internet access, they can come in and contribute material of nearly any source as long as it is community news. Get locals to shoot video of stuff you can never devote resources to. They come in and edit it and then you publish it. Maybe you have 1-2 community editors who help them until they can do it themselves. You also need a virtual space too. News organizations need people to moderate and participate in the comments on their sites. They should host chat rooms. They can eventually bring in members of the community to help moderate. Leo Laporte does it, so can other forms of media.
– A lighter structure. Newsrooms are too top heavy. The lesson of the Internet is that we need fewer chiefs and a lot more braves. You don’t need a lot of editors, you need a few moderators and 1-2 editors to keep it together. Everyone else is a reporter. Reporters create content and that’s what we do – make content.
– Sell, partner and hustle. Newsrooms need to find, create and hustle funding. Find partners who want to fund the kind of information we can provide. Talk to the same business that support the local high schools and get them to sponsor your sports reporters. That’s how it’s going to work. You will have to work with the community. Yes, it will rankle some who say that will tarnish our journalistic ethics. But we won’t have any ethics left if we don’t have any journalists left. It costs money to make rich media.
– Social, social, social. You have to be wherever your audience community goes. Every reporter MUST blog, tweet and Facebook and that’s just for now. Keep up with the new tech, especially the social tech. Don’t talk to your community, converse with them. Give them content they want (and some stuff they need).
So, building a 21st Century Newsroom is part technology, part training, part attitude and a big part social. Do I even need to mention that you have to have a web site? I hope not.