Modernize your newsroom today

Many employees at news organizations have a very easy time blaming out-of-date computers, front-end print publishing systems, and Web content management systems on such faceless, amorphous entities as “Corporate,” or perhaps “The Budget.”

Nevertheless, there are plenty of free or not-completely-expensive ways you can modernize your newsroom today.

Here are 5.

  1. Use Google Documents (or any one of many similar tools) to share notes and spreadsheets in your newsroom. This makes it far easier for you to move data between desks and access it from anywhere.
  2. Get every reporter and editor in your newsroom an IM account and ask them to stay on it throughout the day. If they’re in the office, this is how they should be sharing links to sources, documents, and references with each other. If they’re working from a laptop in the field, this is a dead simple way to stay in touch and keep each other updated on what they’re working on.
  3. Build an OPML file of local bloggers, news sources, and searches for your newspaper’s name. If your reporters and editors aren’t already using Google Reader, Bloglines, or another RSS reader, just import this file into a central Bloglines account and go around to all their computers bookmarking the “public” view of those feeds.
  4. Set up a Flickr account for your newsroom and make sure everyone knows how to upload to it. This is for more than just pictures that run in your paper or on your site, this is to post stuff from parties and conferences and events. Humanize your newsroom; make your readers feel like they can pick up the phone and call you.
  5. Get every reporter a cell phone or other mobile device with a built-in camera. OK, this one costs money, but if you’re serious about staying in business, you need to be able to publish the news as it happens, not hours or days later. A reporter with a cell phone camera can e-mail photos straight to the newsroom from the field, or when appropriate, straight to the Web. This can be an incremental investment. Buy two or three phones for reporters on cops, city, and general assignment beats at the start, then add more as necessary.

[This post is part of the January Carnival of Journalism, hosted graciously this month by Adrian Monck. Hit that link to see lots of great posts from the last two days.]

8 Replies to “Modernize your newsroom today”

  1. All good ideas, but the first five are essentially information shifting techniques for an office. The last one is a newsgathering one. It feels like something that we will look back on in a year or two and ask: “Can it be possible that ANY newspaper is sending staff out WITHOUT a camera-phone anymore? It’s not even expensive…”
    cheers
    Charlie Beckett

  2. I wish I could get everyone in the newsroom on the RSS bandwagon. But they are resistant to change, and the editor is content to let them gather info their own way.

  3. @Charlie – Exactly. Any non-media business office worth a damn these days knows how to exchange documents, stay in contact online, promote themselves, and find out what everyone in town is saying about them.

    @Megan – Scobleize’ em. Just come in early one day and add to all their bookmark bars a ‘Gator News’ link to a public bloglines page. They won’t know what hit ’em.

  4. Creating an OPML file is a great move (I passed one out this week to one of our newspapers’ online editors). The next trick is teaching people how to use RSS!

  5. I think getting everyone in the newsroom a cheap digital camera with video options would work better. Cheap point-and-shoots are easier to use than some camera phones, they cost about the same, and they can be linked directly to computers when they have to. I still haven’t figured out how to email myself pictures from my phone, but I definitely know how to connect a wire from my camera to my computer and transfer the files over. Also, the quality and sound are better, and my camera has a flash while my camera phone does not.

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