Steve Buttry Wants to Change How You Work (It Will Be Better, We Promise)

project unboltMost of our newsrooms, if we’re honest, are print organizations with the digital initiative “bolted on.” Or so admitted Digital First Media CEO John Paton. I can’t decide whether I’m jealous of or pity the man, Steve Buttry, who has been tasked with unbolting four test newsrooms as DFM’s digital transformation editor.

He obviously knew what he was getting into. More than just refocusing attention to mobile reporting, engaging with audiences over social media or creating new ways to play with and use data, Project Unbolt is about actually changing how newsrooms think and act. Buttry elaborated on his blog this week about what it will actually entail and look like to ‘wrench’ newsrooms away from thinking for print. Here are some highlights:

  • Everything is live, all the time. He writes:

Virtually all event coverage and breaking news coverage are handled as live coverage, with ScribbleLive, livetweeting, livestreaming, etc. This includes sports events, government meetings, trials, community festivals, etc….Live coverage is routine for the unbolted newsroom. Reporters and/or visual journalists covering events plan for live coverage unless they have a good reason not to (a judge won’t allow phones or computers in a courtroom; a family would rather not have you livetweet a funeral; connectivity at a site is poor).

  • In the unbolted newsroom, you post content when you have an audience. Digital content is fresh every morning, you aren’t planning for morning editions, and those ‘Sunday magazine’ style features go up during the week.
  • Reporters work on ‘beat blogs,’ experiment with storytelling tools, and upload and use images and video quickly. You also record your interviews:

When possible and when sources are willing, journalists use Hangout rather than telephone for interviews with people they can’t meet in person, using YouTube to livecast and record the interview for use on digital platforms. The newsroom uses Hangout/YouTube (or other video tools) regularly for livecasts with journalists in the field.

  • Everyone engages with social media, and at times, it’s part of the workflow. Social media is about the conversation with the audience, promotion and transparency. Writes Buttry:

The editor explains newsroom decisions and developments regularly in a blog, social media and community appearances. The staff are encouraged to share the “story behind the story” in social media and blogs as well as community appearances. Where time permits, newsroom invites community input before and during news coverage…

There are lots of other big ideas in there. Or, rather, all these small ideas that we write about all the time or talk about amongst ourselves on Twitter, put into some serious action. Digital First Media newsrooms at the New Haven Register, The News-Herald, The El Paso Times, The Berkshire Eagle are the guinea pigs (update: Buttry would rather call them ‘trailblazers.’ Check the comment section below for his clarification).

Buttry and newsroom staff will be blogging about it at Project Unbolt.

What do you think about the unbolted newsroom? I say it’s about time — it’s going to be hard, but I predict we’ll be following in their footsteps soon enough. Let us know what you think at @10,000Words. 

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