Breaking Down Newsroom Silos

Breaking Down Newsroom Silos

Written by Lis Travers, General Manager CTVNews.ca, CTV News Channel, and President Radio Television Digital News Foundation How many times, in how many newsrooms, from how many leaders, have we heard about the need to break down the silos? Years ago that meant getting departments to, at very least, talk to each other, let alone

Written by Lis Travers, General Manager CTVNews.ca, CTV News Channel, and President Radio Television Digital News Foundation

How many times, in how many newsrooms, from how many leaders, have we heard about the need to break down the silos? Years ago that meant getting departments to, at very least, talk to each other, let alone be more efficient.

What a difference a few decades make. Today, newspapers are winning Emmys for outstanding video production. TV newsrooms and digital desks are sharing awards for multi-platform coverage. Radio journalists are carrying cameras, recording podcasts and writing stories online.

Breaking down silos is no longer a luxury — it’s a matter of survival.

What’s the secret to getting past those barriers? I asked some of the experts.

1. FINDING THE RIGHT PEOPLE

“The best people to hire are those who’ve had a foot in both worlds,” says Ron Waksman, VP Digital at Global News and Corus Radio. Global News has been aggressively pushing its multi-platform strategy in newsrooms across the country. Waksman says members of the digital team who came from broadcast understand the news gathering process.

“They also understand the demands of the broadcast clock, which are the greatest impediments to digital success.”

Having a blend of talent from different backgrounds promotes creativity and keeps the team from getting stuck in a rut because it’s “the way we have always done things.”

2. GUESS WHAT? COMMUNICATION IS KEY

Start talking and don’t assume.
“There’s no such thing as over-communication, and it’s a mistake to assume that we are always speaking the same language to each other.” says Steve Ladurantaye, Managing Editor at CBC Digital. “The simplest broadcast challenges could confound a digital producer, and the needs of an online piece are often vastly different that the broadcast piece. In both cases, neither side knows about these gaps unless there’s a concerted effort to talk about what’s required and the best way to get it done for each platform.”
It helps when you are within (over)hearing distance. At CTV we use e-mail, Slack, and other messaging tools to keep teams in touch, but the discoveries made in casual conversation are often missed.
Sitting next to each other is much more efficient. When a story is assigned, each platform brings their ideas and outlines their respective needs to make the greatest impact. When one platform is not at the table, messages get missed, work is duplicated, and someone often ends up playing catch-up. More people attend quick “stand-up” meetings at the start of each digital shift and that’s led to sharing between teams throughout the day and night.

3. CROSS-POLLINATE

The people who put together 24-hours news, whether online or on air, have a lot in common. Each group is always busy and rarely has enough time to fully understanding the roles of people from the other platform.

At CTV News we introduced a cross-department orientation program. We matched online writers with broadcast writers, producers with producers, and digital content editors with resources, editors and graphics. Each spent time with each other, learning about each other’s job and sharing organizational tips. Once the first few came back talking about what they learned and how much it could help them with their own jobs, other staff began asking for a turn.

Tools each side took for granted — real time metrics displaying trending new stories or a program that searched archive videos in seconds — became an enormous help to the people who did not regularly use them.

Duplicate assignment lists became a co-production. There was less wasted time and more collaboration. And to the first point about hiring well and cultivating people with a foot in both worlds – the experience led to more online journalists going on camera to talk about trending stories and a broadcast associate who has now become an online writer.

4. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE METRICS

Global News’ Ron Waksman makes the case of the importance of the one-newsroom approach using the metrics. “Show them the metrics as a measure of how their stories are doing online,” says Waksman.

“We’ve installed giant monitors in legacy newsrooms where broadcast journalists can see what’s on the website in real-time and watch real-time metrics of how web content is performing.” Waksman also believes using metrics is the best way to illustrate the need for change, especially when it comes to viewing the 2-minute reporter package as the Holy Grail. “When those packages add important context, meaning or put a human face on a story I think they are of value online.

However, most of us have a habit of simply taking what we do on our newscasts and stapling it to the top of news articles. The metrics show people want raw, emotive video. Waksman says the digital message must be reinforced every day — even tying performance reviews to include digital contributions.

5. SIGNS OF SUCCESS

Breaking down the silos has become the new normal in most of our newsrooms – planning everything from breaking news to special coverage. Reporters are Snapchatting, doing Facebook Lives, creating 360 videos and feeding material to Instagram and Twitter.

Local news directors are hiring and grooming new recruits who are comfortable on all platforms and who relish the idea of drawing the biggest audience for their story telling.

Steve Ladurantaye talks about a piece filed by correspondent Nahlah Ayad. “She gathered everything she needed for a compelling broadcast piece, took photos that would work with an online piece and worked with an editor to ensure the digital audience was well served.

“This isn’t just a case of repurposing content on different platforms. It’s about understanding what works best on each and purposefully gathering the needed resources.”

CTV News field producer Mark Khouzam in the thick of things in Washington D.C., shooting some digital footage in the midst of a protest on Inauguration Day. ‘A moment between police and protesters as they stand-off in the middle of Washington,’ he wrote as he posted directly to Youtube. 

 

 

A moment between police and protesters as they stand-off in the middle of Washington.

 

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