Monday, July 26, 2004

It's not herding cats, but ...

It quickly becomes apparent that a newsroom trying to cover a multithreaded event in near real time must be prepared to deal with coordination issues that grow exponentially. I've worked as a TV assignment editor and the chief editor in a wire-service bureau, and this is as challenging, if not more so.

Here's the problem -- not only do you have to "run" multiple stories with multiple reporters, now you have photos and text coming in asynchronously that must be matched up much moe quickly than for the early news or the first edition. Add to that the need to work with a news resourcer to expand and deepen the initial story. The wire services now feeding Yahoo and other sites are finding the same kinds of pressures (doesn't do much good to post the text on Yahoo now and the photo or video two hours later).

The solution is to have well-defined roles, yet stay flexible -- something we didn't do as well as we could today. Part of the problem is that reporters in the field might be contributing to several threads at once -- and we weren't totally clear which ones they were handling. Back here, as staff shifted in and out, threads and responsibilities got muddled.

The lesson: plan, plan, plan. Every minute you plan and define will save hours of probelems later. Then be prepared to throw it out if needed.

For a discussion of the new newsroom roles propsed by experience in the Ifra Newsplex, see storybuilder, newsflow editor, news resourcer and multiskilled journalist.

Lesson No. 2, make sure the e-mail to reporters' phones is working and you know how to use it.

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