If one newsroom is a problem, get two

What’s wrong with newspapers?


How do you fix it?

You get two newsrooms.


I guess that’s what you get when someone named “Mr. Magazine” starts deconstructing newspapers.

Who’s Mr. Magazine? That would be Samir Husni, who calls himself “Mr. Magazine” with a TM and is the Chair of the Journalism Department at the University of Mississippi: He’s one of the few people I know of that have TM in their name — what was his mother thinking.

Nonetheless, Husni has a point:  

The majority of the newsrooms that I have visited are still operating in the same way they operated when I was working in a newsroom as if nothing has changed. Yes, we no longer use typewriters (we are talking 70s here) but we still have the beat system and the division of the newsroom between reporters, writers, editors and designers. The territorial divisions in the newspaper are still alive, well and kicking the newspaper to its grave. Try to tell the folks in the newsroom that the reporter from the city council beat needs to work with the reporter from the world beat and see what will happen. Try to tell the reporters to ignore yesterday’s news because their readers have already heard and seen the news and see their reaction. The newsroom has to go beyond the news and the reporters working there have to do the same.

I believe that we need to have two newsrooms in each paper, one to operate the on-line edition which will continue to operate like the old fashioned newsroom with beat reporters whose sole job is to chase and report the news (from their virtual office to the web directly) and a contents-room for journalists who are going to stop the news-race and rather focus on analyzing and studying the news in order to create information out of the news as the editor-in-chief of the Dutch newspaper nrc•next Hans Nijenhuis likes to say, “News is free, but information is not.”

Indeed, the news needs of online and print are not the same and that’s the fallacy of “repurposed content.” The Sunday takeout piece is likely to see virtually no traction online. (It may not in print either, but that’s an argument for another day; suffice to say, it did occupy space that needed occupying.) The early morning breaking news that demanded frequent updates and art and video online may be just a brief the next day in the printed paper.

Maybe two newsrooms isn’t that far out. Certainly, the mediums demand different newsgathering approaches.