Three signs your newsroom is not ready to cross the digital divide

The Knight Digital Media Center posted ‘three signs’ that indicate a newsroom remains focused on print, with online activities an ‘add-on’ operation. In today’s “now media” of converging platforms and audiences, the newsroom needs to think about where and when both the audience and the information are to be found. Alter the recommendations somewhat and the lessons apply to public diplomacy and public affairs offices as well.

1. The staff still reports to an assignment desk that is focused on print and/or is organized in departments that correspond to the sections of a newspaper. This inevitably means that newsgathering for print gets more time than the news organization can afford and print production demands drive the daily reporting and editing assembly line. The fix: Newsgathering staff reports to the online assignment desk. Print becomes a production team that draws heavily on the online report for content at the end of the day.

2. News meetings focus on top news for the next day’s paper and meeting times reflect print. If your frontline editors are focused on daily meetings that happen in the middle of the morning and late afternoon, you’ve got a big problem. If you’re spending more than one-fifth of the meeting time talking about the next day’s newspaper, you’ve got an even bigger problem. The fix: Meetings run by online editors at times that reflect digital publication timetables (like when to serve peak traffic) and focus primarily on online content, traffic and engagement metrics.

3. The top newsroom executives – say the Editor and Managing Editor(s) – are all print veterans who look at online from the outside. …

The change is a shift from the clock of the producer to that of the consumer. Lost to memory is that current print schedules were based on the consumer: when the commuter picked up his paper to work and from work. Today, the consumer no longer ‘picks up’ the paper as much as she grazes for information during the day across multiple devices and sites.

While technology-poor communities may not have the luxury or time to ‘graze’, their news providers tend to have that access. Other news organizations are a ‘market segment’ that is a valid target for information professionals as the roles of consumer and producer of news become blurred.

Organizations that fail to adapt to the modern information environment will loose access and relevance to audiences that matter. of course this is not true if the paper simply wants to serve a discrete community within a fixed geography, determined primarily by balancing printing and distribution against revenue, where there are no serious competitors.