At the CUNY summit last week, I was assigned to the group that looked at rethinking our newsrooms to meet the current financial imperatives. Or, as someone wryly named us, “the cost-cutting group.”
But, as Chris O’Brien, one of the thought-leaders in that group, notes in his excellent distillation of the day’s themes and discussions, it was less about the wild slashing that’s going on now in newsrooms large and small, and more about rebuilding a newsroom suited to the needs and challenges of 2008 and beyond.
We took the approach of essentially creating a new news organization from the ground up. But the other way to look at this question is to ask: How would you make a current newsroom more efficient? After leaving the discussion, a number of things occurred to me that should be explored:
1. Use templates for the print paper. Spend less money on designing the paper every day and use that money elsewhere. Newspapers have been trying to design their way out of their problems for years, and it hasn’t worked. I don’t think this something print readers think about. They want substance and content, not more pictures.
2. Cull circulation. Most newspapers are underwriting a chunk of their circulation to fight churn. What if you stopped spending so much money trying to sign up new subscribers? That costs a lot of money. This would require a change in ad rates. But I think it might save costs in the long run.
3. Reduce editors. I love editors, but it seems a lot of content, especially shorter stories, could be posted directly the Web. Many newspapers now let reporters post to blogs without editing. Why not the main site?
4. Newsroom salaries. I’m not sure yet how I feel about this, but it would seem that how we pay people needs to be rethought. Some online news sites pay employees by traffic they generate. That’s ruthless, but still, I wonder if that might work for some online jobs at newspapers?
There’s much more, here at Chris’s Next Newsroom project.