Jim Roberts, digital news editor at The New York Times, will speak of the newsroom integration process undergone by the paper of record at the upcoming World Editors Forum, to be held June 1-4 in Gothenburg, Sweden.
He'll describe the last 3 years at the Times, as "it has attempted to make what I consider to be a historic shift in its mission," towards a much more rounded and "almost platform-agnostic" approach.
Roberts isn't one of those online editors who have an instinctive aversion for print, to the contrary - he worked as a print journalist and editor, as well as a National news editor at the Times. Although he resists calling the Times 'print-centric', it's a fact that print still accounts for over 80% of the company's revenues, and that "our main mission still is putting out a print publication," he said.
One key factor in the NYT's integration process was the gradual approach adopted by the newspaper, instead of "a radical shakeup" - similar to the Guardian's approach in that respect.
"There was a change in newsroom culture and it had its rocky moments, I certainly can't minimize that," said Roberts.
But "We haven't ordered anyone to focus on digital journalism to the exclusion of everything else." Instead, "We've encouraged people to think of Web as one of an array of tools and outlets to report the news."
Here are some of the other factors that made the Times' integration approach successful, in Roberts' view:
- The creation of a Continuous News Desk, in 1999, first appealed to foreign correspondents. With the help of staff based in New York, the reporters could publish stories online that could instantly be read by their sources. This established the foundations for print reporters seeking the advantages of online.
- Not having evolved through edicts, but by engaging staff's brains: give the print reporters the necessary tools.
- Teaching journalists that the Web can mean more and better ways to tell stories.
- Two years ago, the Times 'planted' multimedia editors at each news desk. This led to increased print-online collaboration on stories and to successful enterprise-type projects, where the Web content complemented the print articles, and vice versa (see this multimedia project about prisoners that were exonerated by DNA evidence, which complemented ex-prisoner profiles in the print edition).
- Roberts' own print background, thus trusting relationship with the paper's reporters. "One of my chores has been to eliminate the fear aspect of it (writing for the Web)."
- Last but not least, tell reporters that if they don't report online, their competitors will: "If I could point to one thing that has really worked, it is appealing to reporters' competitive instincts."
Source: Jim Roberts, Digital News Editor, The New York Times