Ah, the new year. A time for promising to do new things and reflecting on what you failed to achieve in the past year. For the ever-evolving news industry, it’s a fresh opportunity to assess what’s working and what’s not, and a reason to get others around you to try something new (not always the easiest thing to accomplish in the newsroom).
These are five resolutions, ranging from relatively simple to somewhat radical, that you can use as a source of inspiration for your own newsroom.
1. Cut back on paper usage.
People like meetings. People like for their meetings to feel productive and important. Therefore, people print handouts, packets, memos. In an era of Google Docs, project screens and smart phones, there’s really no reason to print out twenty versions of the same document, which will, no doubt, be lost in a pile on a desk or immediately end up in a recycling bin. It’s wasteful.
Part of getting a newsroom to think digitally is getting them to act digitally. A few tools you can use to accomplish this: Google Docs, Quick Notes (A Chrome app), the iPad Notes app or Notes Plus, Evernote (great for syncing across devices)
2. Fully document your projects
Whether you’re launching a new blog, making use of an API or launching a new app , those processes should be publicly documented somewhere for people in other newsrooms and for your readers. Sharing your work and your code can serve as a source of inspiration and knowledge-sharing for other do-ers in the news industry. A few examples: The Chicago Tribune’s News Apps Blog, The New York Times’ Open blog.
3. Strive for a culture of open news
On chord similar to documentation of projects is the concept of “open news.” The idea of open news budgets is that you post your editorial pursuits to the web (and print, sure) regularly and give the public a chance to weigh in with tips, suggestions, sources, alternate angles, etc. You involve your readers in the editorial process from the start, rather than hiding your content behind a wall and letting them react after the story is finished.
4. Seriously rethink how you present news on the web
I’ll say it for what’s probably the hundredth time this year: News design is broken. And I’m not just talking about how it looks, but how it functions. We templatize news design, forcing every story on the web to have the exact same headline size, the exact same photo size, in the same location on the story page. We use the same fonts and colors on every page, no matter the topic. But in print, we spend hours and hours a day agonizing over how to present news, and we do it in a way that’s extremely visually compelling to readers. It’s not as though this isn’t doable on the web. Look at articles like Dustin Curtis‘s or Jason Santa Maria‘s.
5. Forget taxonomies and find a better way of connecting content
One of my personal goals over the next year will be related to this topic. I recently wrote about the new, convoluted life cycle of a news story over time. (A journalism thinker who I greatly respect, Stijn Debrouwere, has a related piece that you should read, too, framed around the irrelevancy of taxonomies). Episodic stories don’t make sense on the web, especially when there’s not a content management system around that provides an elegant, useful, easy way to follow a story over time. As Stijn says, “What is more frustrating to me than a lack of solid content categorization is that there is no single CMS out there that allows you to indicate follow-ups, updates, series, retractions, corrections and responses.”