Peter Horrocks, head of the BBC Newsroom, writes about the consolidation of its news operations across all media. Now one newsroom serves radio, TV, and online and he’s its boss.
Practically every news operation I know of is struggling with this now: to consolidate or not?
I was on the side of separation at the beginning of the web and for good reasons. At Advance, where I used to work, we set up separate online operations to make sure that what was made for the web was appropriate to the web (not just a PDF of a newspaper) and to assure that the web gained its own value (and wasn’t just given away to advertisers as value-added). That worked.
But I’ve come to think that consolidation is inevitable. Any news organization has to get to the point where there is no difference between old media people and new media people. That takes much training and more mixing of tribes than the end of a season on Survivor (but just as much loss and pain).
This is, of course, easier said than done. At the same time, more technical skills are needed; one could consolidate too much and, in the words of one of my students, turn every journalist into an eight-armed monster — and do a halfassed job in any medium. And revenues are going down. And managers try to wrangle two completely different business models for industries in completely different life cycles under the same roof with the same people.
But at the end of the day, whenever that will be, we know this: Every journalist needs every tool to gather and tell every story how best it should be told. Every reader/listener/viewer/user should be able to get the news however, whenever, and wherever he or she wants. News operations won’t be able to afford the inefficiency of separate staffs all putting out the same news. And that’s why I think consolidation is inevitable.
So that takes yet another new management skill: mixing two or more cultures and operations into one (and hiring the right kind of people to help and, yes, getting rid of those who can’t and won’t come along). I think that training needs to be aimed not only at eliminating the line between old and new skills, it also needs to show new ways to do journalism better, to give an understanding of the new ecosystem in which media live, and to instill a culture of innovation.