Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Digital first: It's good practice

I'm a real process guy. I believe that good workflow and organization solves problems, so when I saw Designing Digital Newsrooms on the Online News Association schedule Saturday, I knew I wasn't going to miss it.

On the panel of three was Steve Herrmann, the editor of BBC News Online, who described how the entire BBC newsroom was reorganized when the British broadcaster moved into a new, bigger space in London.

The huge, open newsroom has at its center a desk where all the news for all the BBC services comes in. The desks for BBC World Service, BBC TV, BBC News Online and all the other BBC platforms radiate in spokes from that center desk. News comes in, then goes out to the desks for dissemination.

Here's what really caught my ear: Even the journalists who were used to airing their reports live sent at least a sentence to the central news desk so the story could be posted to other platforms. That expanded the audience for each story and worked to cross-promote it for other audiences that might otherwise miss it. 

It's not an option at the BBC to keep a story on one platform.

The Orion, which created a central assignment desk this fall but not a central receiving desk, is still having problems with sharing. That showed up last week (and this) when Don Gonyea of NPR spoke on campus Thursday night, but the story about his speech didn't appear on the website until Tuesday--almost a week later, when it wasn't news anymore. 

The story that did appear on was the same story that will appear in the newspaper this morning, a Q&A with Gonyea by reporter Sarah Morin. The Q&A was a great approach for a story that wasn't going to be published in the paper until today, but THE WEBSITE PUBLISHES EVERY DAY, including the night Gonyea spoke and the day after. Sarah should have been asked to put together a quick day-of story right after the speech. And she should have Tweeted from the event itself. 

The Orion sports guys have this figured out. They Tweet scores during games, post a game story online as soon as it's over and then run a roundup of the games in Wednesday's paper. Three different approaches for three different platforms. It's a model the rest of the paper should emulate.

Digital first is good practice in two ways. It's a news best practice for the way journalism works today, where stories are served up in multiple forms on multiple platforms to serve the widest possible audience. It's also good practice for young journalists who want careers in 21st century journalism because practice makes perfect.

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