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Panpa Bulletin : July 2007
6 PANPA Bulletin July 2007 With designs already drawn up for the integrated news desk that will be the focal point of newsroom convergence when Melbourne's Age moves to its new purpose-built headquarters in 2009, editorial staff are now absorbing -- and debating -- a set of guiding principles for the switch to multimedia coverage. The guidelines are part of a Newsroom of the Future -- Preparing for Change informa- tion kit circulated with the double-aim of publicising the thinking behind integration and also giving staff a say in the debate over the changes being lead by editor-in-chief Andrew Jaspan. Jaspan and Fairfax Media's online editor-in-chief Mike van Niekerk en- dorsed the principles (summarised in adjoining box) in a joint staff address in early July. One of the key findings made on recent study tours by senior editorial staff is that integration is best achieved when newsroom decision-makers are seated close, with clear sightlines and smooth communication. The progress being made at The Age in dealing with the many complex issues that have arisen and in preparing for the transformation has been outlined to the PANPA Bulletin (see June issue, pp 6-7) by Steve Foley, deputy editor (Development and Production), and editorial operations manager Louise Graham. They co-chair the paper's Newsroom of the Future steering committee that issued the kit in 12-page pamphlet form. Staff have been assured that staff training is optional, but it is considered important that everyone gets the chance to learn new skills. "Not everyone will be required to shoot or edit video of stories they cover but we'd like everyone at least to have the chance to try something new." Graham, who visited numerous news- paper offices in Britain and Europe last year in preparation for overseeing the transition to the new site, recently un- veiled proposed designs for the integrated news desk. The concentric design has an inner and outer circle capable of seating up to 22 staff around the clock. At its core is a round conference table, in part inspired by the start-of-the-art newsroom operating at London's Daily Telegraph (Again, see June PANPA Bulletin cover story). Whereas oblong-shaped day and night news desks are currently separated at The Age, the continuous news desk, as it is being called, brings together all key decision-makers across day and night -- in both print and online -- and allows them, for the first time, to work side-by-side or opposite each other. "This interim change is intended to test the concept of key editors from news, pictorial, foreign, business, sport and production working closely together before final decisions for The Age's new offices are made," Graham said. "The news desk has had a big say in this and over the next 12 months or so we have the opportunity to see if this model works best for us." Foley emphasised that discussions with staff had been going on for some months about the future of news gathering and how best to build rapidly on the paper's notable achievements across both print and online. "Key themes have emerged that are helping to shape the debate as two big projects converge: Newsroom of the Future, which effectively redefines the role of the newsroom and, secondly, the planned move to a narrower width newspaper," said Foley. "Both projects are themselves classically integrated." As well as the guiding principles, the Newsroom of the future -- rules of engagement By Jack Beverley Integration principles Here (summarised) are the main integration principles drafted by The Age's Newsroom of the Future steering committee, chaired by Steve Foley, in consultation with editor-in- chief Andrew Jaspan and Fairfax Media's online editor-in-chief, Mike van Niekerk: Web- rst Reporters, photographers, graphic artists and designers will le important breaking news for online publication without delay to maintain the paper's competitive edge. The emphasis is on news that will make a di er- ence, especially top stories -- the big stories of the moment for an online news audience. Breaking news from the online team and wire services will be augmented, where rel- evant, by the specialist expertise of general news rounds, sport, business, politics and entertainment. Wherever practical, exclusive news that is in danger of being overtaken, or scooped, will be moved to the web ahead of print. Exceptions will be decided by the duty edi- tor in consultation with the editor of online news. Integrated news desk The integrated news desk will coordinate commissioning and story-building for print and online -- the key to a fully integrated newsroom. This entails the adoption, as soon as practi- cal, of a restructured news desk that brings key decision makers in print and online closer together. This will create a system of shared responsibility, where news editors of print and online consult each other on how stories should be treated for each medium and hence the best way to assign sta to jobs. Communication should be through one source so that all sta are clear as to which medium they are targeting when briefed A news conference/news list schedule will be created that updates and briefs succeed- ing news teams through the 24-hour cycle, i.e. early morning for mid-morning, late night for early morning. Working 24/7 The aim of 24/7 means publishing around the clock, acknowledging the primacy of news, emphasising the demands of the web as opposed to the limits of press time. The present gap between 3am to 6am will be closed. In the move towards 24/7, the practice of ling "out of hours" needs to be encouraged, particularly among foreign correspondents. Multi-platform reporting Reporters, rounds specialists and editors should be able to provide audio, video and multimedia reporting and commentary for online use. Three would be training to enable reporting, photography, graphics and design in a multi- platform environment. Action is being taken to identify and imple- ment consistent and e ective procedures for commissioning multi-platform content across the newsroom. news
August September 2007