The fount of all news

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.

  • Newsroom consolidation will be forced by technology, so ultimately this will not be a choice made by the media. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said in October “Within 10 years, the consumption of anything we think of as media today, whether it is print, TV or the Internet, will in fact be delivered over IP and will all be digital.” Newspapers, TV, and online news will all be competitors on the same platform sooner than everyone now thinks. (Steve Boriss, The Future of News)

  • Every reader/listener/viewer/user should be able to get the news however, whenever, and wherever he or she wants

    hear hear
    because democracy depends on it

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  • I think the “show new ways to do journalism better” is a key piece. Too much industry changed has recently happened in the name of retrenchment, if not communicated effectively employees will see this as nothing more then a restructuring scheme designed to hide future layoffs.

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  • Muz

    Is fount the American version of font?

  • From the Oxford American dictionary, yes:

    fount 1 |fänt; fount| noun a source of a desirable quality or commodity : our courier was a fount of knowledge. • poetic/literary a spring or fountain. ORIGIN late 16th cent.: back-formation from fountain , on the pattern of the pair mountain, mount.fount 2 noun Brit. variant spelling of font 2 .

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