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DOING MORE WITH LESS: The world's newspaper editors sound off on integrated newsrooms

DOING MORE WITH LESS: The world's newspaper editors sound off on integrated newsrooms

In the run-up to the 16th World Editors Forum being held in Hyderabad, India March 22-25, 2009, the Editors Weblog is running a special series entitled "Doing More with Less." The series highlights major trends that editors-in-chief are using to steer their newsrooms through the difficult economic climate. This week, we looked at how The Guardian and Finland's Kauppalehti have integrated their newsrooms. Below, editors from around the world share their own thoughts about INTEGRATED NEWSROOMS.
Azubuike Ishiekwene, Executive Director, Punch Nigeria
The question of integration is not optional - it's functional. The speed and timing of integration may differ from newsroom to newsroom in countries and even within regions. But we at the Punch have found that the only way to remain relevant is to anticipate and follow the readers. A good example of this is mobile phones. With over 50 million people in Nigeria now using mobile phones and one out of every four phones being WAP enabled, our newsroom has been preparing for our next major step - delivering the news through mobile phones.

As for our journalists, we are not creating separate boxes for print and digital. We're starting with print journalists who already have a flair for the digital platform and encouraging the rest to join in the fun. At entry level, however, our preference now is for digital natives! Fortunately, we are not yet at the stage where we're compelled to fire staff for lack of digital enthusiasm. We're hoping we can convert the dinosaurs before the curtain falls!

Most importantly, as we aggregate platforms hard-nosed journalistic skills, including of course, a stubborn passion for truth, will remain valuable professional qualities.

Marcelo Rech, General Product Director, RBS Group, Brasil
For us, in Zero Hora and the other RBS Group newspapers, the discussion about integration is outdated. By now, we are trying to fuse, 100%, the digital and print operations inside the newsroom. We still maintain some specific jobs for print and digital, like print page designers, but whole departments have already merged.

We don't demand that someone work for the digital operation if she or he is uncomfortable with it, but the truth is that we have much more good, multimedia and innovative digital content produced by our reporters, columnists and editors than we could imagine.

This is due to two simple reasons:
1) People know that if they avoid experimenting with digital media their careers will be under threat sooner or later.
2) I believe the first task of a journalist is being relevant - being read, watched or listened by the highest number of people, and making a difference. When our journalists realized they were becoming more relevant due the internet, they largely volunteered for work with the digital side on a routine basis.

By now, no less than 70% of the about 230 journalists of Zero Hora work with eyes on both operations. For a minority of that 70%, the unofficial group leaders, we can no longer describe their tasks as purely digital or purely print.

Roman Gallo, Director of Media Strategies, PPF Financial Group
The benefits of integrating print and online journalists is that you can reach more readers and affect more users from different target groups that you could not touch through traditional media. You can use your current power (brand, loyal readers group....) to extend (or minimally defend) your position in the whole media market. And of course it is a more effective way how to run your media company.

On the other hand, the dangers of joining print and online journalists is that you can destroy your original brand. Why? To be able to succeed in different media fields you have to change the way you reach readers. Here I sense a hidden risk. During the integration process you can gradually lose losing the main characteristics of your brand. For example, if you write for the internet and your goal is speed, you may quickly lose your sense of accuracy. Step by step, this bad habit can reach your newspaper.

In conclusion, no matter which medium you use, the quality of your journalism has to correspond to your brand.

Espen Egil Hansen, Editor-in Chief, Verdens Gang Multimedia, Norway
I'am generally sceptical of the idea of one media house, one newsroom. When was the last time anyone won both the 100 meter dash and marathon during an Olympic game?

Newspaper and internet are by nature so diverse that they demand completely different working methods and organizations in order to succeed. This applies at all levels: in the editorial department, sales, distribution and management. To argue that "newspaper" and "online news" are the same because both are news, makes as much sense as saying that a roaring river and a glass of water are the same because both are water.

The idea of integration is in my opinion a threat both to the printed product and for the online news site. To the printed product because the integration in a way conceals a level of costs and way of working that is not sustainable in the long run. And the threat to the online site is that it will inherit the way of working, organizing and a level of cost that is not competitive in this market.

In the publishing house of VG we have, with success, chosen the model of focus. We have two companies, two boards, to editorial departments, to chief editors, two managing directors and so on. We cooperate where appropriate for both organizations (which means a lot), but at the same time we are free to choose whatever necessary in order to succeed on our own platform. We've made some tough choices. While down-sizing by 100 people in the print organization we hired 40 more online. No one was moved from print to online. With this model of focus we've achieved the number one position online and in the print market. Both editions have for the last couple of years been very profitable.

Ed Greenspon
, Editor-in-Chief, Globe and Mail, Canada
So far, I have not seen a single danger in joining print and digital journalists. Like any kind of exercise that brings together people with different skills and dispositions, it seems to do nothing but generate greater creativity all round.

There is also no better way to sell digital in a traditionally print newsroom than by letting those doing it day to day serve as the ambassadors.

In fact, I would say that most journalists in our newsroom consider themselves hybrids; they are story tellers who use different media and the inherent strengths of each to convey their stories. That said, just as there will always be the need for certain journalists dedicated to producing the print product, such is the same for our digital products, especially given the rapidly-developing technologies and story-telling techniques.

Newsroom integration can be linked to redundancies and reductions in staff, but it can also be used to meet the demands on us to produce greater volume and variety of content to satisfy more sophisticated audiences. In any case, it would be counter-productive to resist.

Terry Eberle, Executive Editor and Vice President, Fort Myers News Press, Florida
The information world is rapidly changing and will continue to change at a more rapid pace for a long time. This makes it imperative for today's editors to look forward and to put systems in place to assure we remain relevant. Information is our product, the platforms we distribute this information on are less important. We must understand the audiences and we must get our needed information to them on the platform they want it. This all means that we can no longer have a staff for the print and a staff for online. One staff for print photos and one staff for video. We must be one and we must act as one. I believe to do anything less would doom us to failure.



John Burke


2009-01-09 18:31

The World Editors Forum is the organization within the World Association of Newspapers devoted to newspaper editors worldwide. The Editors Weblog (www.editorsweblog.org), launched in January 2004, is a WEF initiative designed to facilitate the diffusion of information relevant to newspapers and their editors.

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