Survival of the Fittest

The changing newsroom. A term that in recent years has been used to describe the state of news reporting across all platforms. With the rise in popularity of social media and its news applications, the modern newsroom has turned into the proverbial tortoise. But slow and steady doesn’t win the race anymore.

On March 24th 2014 a document called The Innovation Reportwas released to the public detailing the inner workings of The New York Times. The report outlined several areas in which the 163-year-old news publication needs to change and evolve in order to stay current. This includes strategies to increase readership levels, streamline efficiency in production and to increase and diversify revenue streams.

The New York Times is one of the most prestigious and award winning news organisations in the world with over 100 Pulitzer prizes to its name, yet, its falling behind, and quickly. If such an editorial isn’t keeping up with the modern digital age then what hopes do other traditional news companies have?

In conjunction with Jonathan Groves of Drury University, Carrie Brown-Smith, Assistant Professor of journalism at Memphis University has studied and researched ‘organisational change’ in news companies that are reluctant to adopt new methods and ‘modernize’. Together Brown-Smith and Groves are writing a book that, similarly to ‘The Innovation Report’, provides editorials with the tools and strategies necessary to thrive and grow through the digital age.

An example of these strategies of improvement set out by ‘The Innovation Report’ is the creation and implementation of an ‘analytics team’, that would analyse website traffic, conduct surveys and run focus groups. Director of the Times’ news analytics team, James G. Robinson, wrote an article for Nieman Journalism Lab, detailing the function and purpose of a new program called ‘Package Mapper’. Package Mapper, creates live working diagrams that map and track the flow of traffic of related content on the Times’ website. Using this tool, editors can see how readers are clicking on linked articles of related material and better connect them to other pieces on similar topics.

Both ‘The Innovation Report’ and Brown-Smith and Groves have stated that the resistance to ‘organisational change’ is not at a structural level but at a personal one. Long serving journalists that haven’t grown up with large advances in digital technology are the key people that are holding the industry back from progressing. Younger less experienced journalists are welcoming the coming changes in production as they have a deep understanding of the technology that the industry is increasingly turning to. Brown-Smith and Groves have said that technological integration is the key to developing a new culture in journalism.

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