Producing print and online content simultaneously needs a
revolution in newsroom structures and practices, editors argued at a session at
the World Editors Forum, writes Bate Felix

This includes actual physical changes – both the New York
Times and the Daily Telegraph moved buildings – and changes in the working
habits of journalists and editors.

Such changes can be hard on journalists. Telegraph editor
Will Lewis said his print staff were “really quite cross” when asked to move to
their new building and work in hubs with their online and video colleagues.

At an Australian newspaper, print journalists voted for a
complete separation of print and online departments after a reporter was asked
to produce a video insert, said Mike van Niekerk, editor-in-chief of Australia’s
Fairfax Media.

However; there are ways to make this process less painful,
and to persuade journalists of the value of integration;

“The mistake,” said van Niekerk, “had been to introduce the
video producer into the newsroom without proper explanation and discussion,
without communicating our need and the need of the company to a workforce that,
frankly, considered the website an unnecessary evil that would cannibalise our
readers and destroy our jobs”.

“It was not a place for serious journalism. It was where the
editor sent the newsroom rejects. There was an ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality.”

The answer, Van Niekerk said is to win hearts and minds
through constant communication and rather than blunt decrees, engage staff in a
dialogue to persuade them of the necessity of change.

“We have done an enormous amount of communication but every
day I am reminded that it’s not been enough, when someone says, ‘I didn’t know

Another way to win both the journalists and the audience in
this new process is to allow customers more voice and control in producing
information said Jennifer Carroll, vice president of new media content at
Gannett’s Information

“It’s about building strategic partnerships and developing a
deep knowledge of our audiences,” she said. “The Information Center
approach is not about becoming a new “newsroom,” it is substantially altering
the way we process, gather and select information”.

Africa newspapers are catching on, starting
to integrate their print and online teams. The Sunday Times, the country’s
largest weekly, recently launched a daily with a new fully integrated online
and print team working together. Meanwhile the Mail & Guardian, which has a
strong online presence, is exploring ways of having its online and print teams
work together.