Friday, May 07, 2004

Your readers can do a lot of what you do -- often better
A recurrent theme in my recent work has been that editors (and producers/news directors) have to get their heads around the idea that increasingly their readers and viewers can do many of the same things their news outlet can, often better. This is especially true in multimedia, specifically photos, video and other visuals (see recent CSJ column). What it means is that if Joe and Jane Doe can do it, those readers are likely to expect the same, if not better, from their local font of news and information.
This also means a marked change in the editor's job, from story generalist and media specialist to story specialist and media generalist. A job whose description often could be summarized as "keeper of the flame" now faces the task of becoming a change agent.

More evidence comes today from an AP story detailing how "amateur" digital photos have become the iconic images of the Iraq war. Those photos of coffins and of humiliated prisoners didn't come from the "pros."

Which then gets to my corollary: Smart newspaper managers will put a lot more effort into getting training for their editors, especially midlevel editors often consumed with putting out the product, to deal with this shift if they want to be successful in the new world of news. It's not just dealing with a lot more inputs. It's learning how to readjust workflows from today's assembly line to become nonlinear, yet still maintain quality control, and how to decide what the best mix is from a vastly wider array of possibilities -- and then how to get it.

Also, read Tim Porter's take on the challenges at his First Draft.

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