With the privilege of an insider’s view into the evolution of Fairfax Media NZ’s newsroom, KIMBERLEY ROSS lends a voice of support to the ‘modern newsroom’.
Transformation has loomed large over the industry, and newsroom changes have often been seen in a negative light. Criticisms include:
- Fewer journalists, fewer voices and perspectives on a given topic.
- Less time and resources, lower-quality journalism.
- Content more commercially guided by views, clicks and immediacy. Important journalism taking a back seat.
More detail can be found in posts such as The continuing decline of journalism on Yournz.org and Fears cuts will affect quality journalism on Radionz.co.nz. The latter quotes Paul Tolich from the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, and his concern about “the pressure that reporters will be under to actually get the job completed.”
But aside from announcements from media industry organisations themselves, such as these ones for NZME and Fairfax Media, little else is written in support of their change.
Thanks to digital media, a modern newsroom is one that is able to put the audience’s needs first. According to Group Executive Editor at Fairfax Media, Sinead Boucher, instead of being tied to specific products or publications, a modern newsroom means journalists can be “perfectly positioned to deliver content in all its forms to our audiences.”
In today’s digital world, it’s short-changing our traditional media to view their changes as simply a survival mechanism. With change comes new possibilities – opportunities that benefit New Zealand media and its ascribed role as the fourth estate.
Emerging benefits of journalism and the modern newsroom include:
- A nimble, digital approach to reporting means news can be captured in new ways and broken faster than ever before.
Take the reporting by Fairfax reporter Simon Maude for example, who by chance happened to be one of the first on the scene of a woman being rescued from her sinking car. After finding assisting police officers a rock to smash the car window with, he took incredible photos of the dramatic rescue – on his iPhone.
His coverage attracted international attention and later won him two titles at the 2015 PANPA Newspaper of the Year Awards.
Quite a feat for a reporter typically providing content for the North Shore Times.
- A nationwide network of more than 600 journalists can now join forces to tackle journalism projects with great depth.
“Faces of Innocents”, a project recently launched on Stuff.co.nz, shines a light on child homicide in New Zealand. As part of the project, Group Executive Editor Sinead Boucher called on all Fairfax journalists to take ownership of a case in their region and help to build a database on every child homicide since 1992.
This is the first time they have been asked to rally behind a single cause – and it’s unlikely to be the last.
- Freedom to publish news when it breaks, growing and evolving it as the story develops.
No longer constrained by publishing deadlines, journalists can engage with their audiences much earlier in the piece. The power of social media helps them find news sources to enrich their coverage, opening a channel for dialogue previously unavailable.
Let’s not forget that the ‘modern newsroom’ is extraordinarily new. With tools, channels and audience preferences evolving at pace – these journalists are now better equipped than ever before to learn the new tools of the trade.
Right now, they’re rewriting the rules.
About the Author:
With a Master of Arts in Media and Communication and employment in corporate communications in the media industry, Kimberley Ross is well-positioned to write knowledgeably on media. With a passion for writing, she is currently studying magazine journalism in her spare time and – at the other end of the spectrum – launching an online store.