The Missourian newsroom has been working hard to be digital-first for some years now.
It's not easy. The habits of print die hard: The work flow and even the language of the newsroom are built around the presses rolling at a certain time and the paper hitting your doorstep in time for that morning cup of coffee.
The trouble, design editor Joy Mayer says, is that when the staff dreams, "we dream in print." So in May the editors made a series of decisions that are being put into place now.
First, the disclaimer: The print edition isn't dying. In fact, I hope you'll see improvements. (More later on that.) Still, the newsroom reorganization over the summer is the most significant in years.
So is one at USA Today.
According to an article in The New York Times, the national newspaper is turning its eye to a digital-first operation. The print edition remains, but the company’s focus will move to getting breaking stories up on the Web 30 minutes after the event, and to multiple platforms such as digital news books.
USA Today already has a website. It was early on the iPad scene with its own "app" (short for application). That’s not enough, according to the Times piece.
It’s not enough at the Missourian either. So some of the changes:
- Standard news reports of the day go up to ColumbiaMissourian.com immediately after being approved by a city editor; the copy desk completes further edits after the article is posted. More complicated enterprise reports or sensitive stories go through copy editors before publication.
- The copy desk — the place where traditionally stories were polished and headlines written — has an expanded mission. It is now responsible for publishing to all the various outlets (Facebook, Twitter, mobile, etc.); for finding interesting links to related material; for updating an article with new information, and even for monitoring comments and providing answers to questions (or referring them to reporters). That’s why it has a new name: interactive copy desk.
- A central coordinating desk — called the “hub desk” — includes editors for graphics, still photography, multimedia and article assignment. Its purpose is to better communicate ideas in the works and to assign the right piece of a story to the best vehicle for telling it.
Early results are good. You should be seeing more items throughout the day on ColumbiaMissourian.com, not just after midnight, which is a print deadline for getting pages to the press room.
It’s too early to read much into numbers, but at least they're promising: The week of Aug. 24 saw a 50 percent increase in traffic over the same week a year ago.
The most radical change is one you shouldn’t notice. A print team has been created. It is charged with producing, and improving, the print edition of the Columbia Missourian. It is separate from the rest of the newsroom. Sealed off, if you will, from the digital production.
The group of students who proposed most of the restructuring said the Missourian could never truly concentrate on digital publishing until it became “unhinged” from print. At the start of the decade, a small band produced the digital Missourian while everyone else concentrated on print. Today, a small group produces the print edition while everyone else concentrates on digital.
I’ll still dream in print. But the way I, and the newsroom, work have changed.
I hope you’ll let me know – good or bad – of changes you notice.