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Many employees at news organizations have a very easy time blaming out-of-date computers, front-end print publishing systems, and Web content management systems on such faceless, amorphous entities as “Corporate,” or perhaps “The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

Twitter hints for reporters

I saw a message on Twitter from Dave Cohn yesterday late in the afternoon that said he was set to interview Craig Newmark in 30 minutes. (Actually, I saw it 19 minutes after he posted it, so he was probably on the way out the door if not on the street when I replied.)

Today, Dave posted an explanation and a primer for journalists of all stripes who sometimes need quick questions along with quick answers.

It’s an introduction to microblogging, complete with a list of tools and how a reporter could use them to tap into the collective intelligence of his or her social network at the touch of a button.

If you still don’t *get* Twitter, start with Dave’s post, and then go read Jeremiah Owyang’s post that started something really fascinating this week, only substitute the word “journalism” for the word “marketing” and you’ll feel better about it, if that’s your thing.