Originally uploaded by John C Thompson.

Yesterday, I spent a very useful few hours at News:Rewired, a regular event about digital journalism organised by the folks at Journalism.co.uk.

As with many of these events, they are divided into two streams with seminars on different subjects. The first was on newsroom architecture and my recent experiences of working in big newsrooms made this particularly relevant to me.

The speakers included Helje Solberg, executive editor at VG, a Norwegian newspaper. She focused mainly on the newspaper’s digital strategy. Reed Business Information’s Karl Schneider and Sky News’s James Weeks talked about staffing structures and how the newsroom is organised – I want to talk about this in relation to my experiences of newsrooms.

Karl Schneider explained how teams are now organised around different ‘beats’ rather than divided into different areas of responsibilities, ie feature writing, social media, reporting etc, as they were a few years ago. This allows them to focus around an area of expertise and to nurture contacts more easily.

I assume that this gives them the opportunity to cover both features and news and to connect with readers through social media. This variety is something that most journalists welcome, although in a B2B where your focus is already very specific I would miss the opportunity to cover the subjects that relate to other beats.

James Weeks explained the importance of where people sit in the newsroom and the flow of information through different teams. At Sky the newsdesk is used as a filter coordinating requests for content from field journalists by different online outlets. This ensures that they are not overloaded by the same requests from the web, mobile and tablet teams.

The newsroom is organised with the newsdesk as a hub and online, foreign news, home news etc as “spokes”. This is similar to the set up at Channel 4 News where I sometimes freelance on the online team – it appears to work pretty well with good commutation between web producers and journalists in the field.

The BBC takes a different approach in its newsrooms. At Television Centre, online and TV journalists are in the same room as newsgathering and correspondents. Business, sport and radio journalists are not in the main newsroom. It’s a much bigger operation than Sky and Channel4 News so perhaps it is not possible to coordinate requests in the same way, though the internal newsgathering system ENPS does help to some extent.

I find that the BBC Regions run a much tighter ship than other parts of the organisation (so it is particularly disappointing how hard they will be hit by the cuts announced yesterday). At BBC London everyone is based in the same newsroom and the online desk is right in the middle. This allows online journalists to discuss things easily with TV and radio producers. Correspondents are harder to pin down, but are usually more than happy to collaborate when you ask them for something.

My first experience of a newsroom was more than ten years ago at Haymarket Publishing, which I expect has some similarities to RBI. We were arranged into small teams, though that didn’t necessarily promote teamwork and it amplified office politics, which I found distracting and counterproductive.

I then worked with just one other person for a few years and after that on my own, firstly from a shared office and then from home. Since becoming freelance I have been thrown back in an newsroom again and working in lots of different environments has given me some interesting perspectives on newsroom architecture.

Via Flickr:
#Newsrw,Newsroom Architecture Session-James Weeks Exec Producer Sky News

Newsroom Architecture Session-

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