Leadership Report 2011 - Appendix - Reorganizing newsrooms

Newsrooms reorganize to cross the digital frontier

A number of editors who participated in KDMC leadership programs reorganized their newsrooms to reflect the new digital reality. This sidebar details efforts by The Wichita Eagle, The Seattle Times and The Christian Science Monitor.

While different, they shared common characteristics:

  1. They sought to put digital on as high or higher footing than print.
  2. They separated newsgathering from production, whether print or digital.
  3. They created new duties or approaches for a significant number of staff members.

Wichita editor Sherry Chisenhall in 2011 shifted most of the news gathering staff to report to the top digital editor,  Deputy Editor, Digital John Boogert. Chisenhall and Boogert developed the plan as 2010-11 KDMC fellows.

A deputy editor for print is charged with making sure that stories filed online earlier are tweaked, augmented or reshaped for the next day’s newspaper. His direct reports are the visuals editor and staff, the night city editor, and the wire news editor.

A third deputy editor focuses on the news desk and production of both online and print.

A senior editor for investigations works with reporters on daily and weekly watchdog reporting as well as longer projects. She is responsible for overseeing watchdog reporting on all levels and working with people on her team as well as across the newsroom.

Another key change is that copy editors who used to edit only print newspaper content now are news editors who work on online as well.  The old newspaper night shift on the copy desk has given way to a staggered schedule that has news editors coming to work starting at 6 a.m.
imageThe Seattle Times in 2011 implemented a reorganization that recognizes three key newsroom roles:

  1. Creation—the news gathering staff, including reporters, editors, videographers.
  2. Curation—the production staff, which oversees design and presentation.
  3. Community—staff who engage with commenters and coordinate the Times’ growing network of more than 40 local bloggers.

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David Boardman

“We portray these three things as being interlocking circles, and in the center of it all is engagement. We want to engage the community all through the process,” Executive Editor David Boardman said.

Boardman sees the reorganization as formalizing many of the practices and roles the newsroom had already begun to adopt. It is a significant milestone in a journey to integrate the newsroom that began when Boardman became executive editor five years ago. Then, print and online were separate.

The Christian Science Monitor in 2009 reorganized significantly as it switched from five-day-a-week print publication to becoming an online news organization with a single weekend print edition.

The move required that 70 percent of the print journalists become Web-first journalists and 75 percent of editorial resources were shifted to Web-only. 

CSM trained the journalists in best practices of SEO, writing for the Web, linking strategies and metrics.

While Boardman and Chisenhall described relatively smooth transitions in 2011, CSM editor John Yemma said the shift much earlier - in 2009 - was challenging.

“We went through a fairly wrenching transition when it came to the way everybody did Monitor journalism, and I think we’ve reached a good place where everybody feels good about being relevant but also having preserved our unique value,” Yemma said.

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Leadership Report 2011

ABOUT THIS REPORT

Michele McLellan

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This report was written by Michele McLellan, a journalist and consultant who works on projects that help foster a healthy local news ecosystem. As senior leadership consultant for [email protected], McLellan helped develop KDMC leadership programs in 2008-2011. She also blogs about key leadership best practices at Leadership 3.0.

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