A model for changing how newsrooms work
Tear down the newsroom and remake it in the image of digital reality — that’s what The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has done, according to Shawn McIntosh:
… we had to address our newsroom’s core structure. The AJC and ajc.com had to become faster and more nimble. Having more than a dozen desks and departments devoted to specific sections of the newspaper had worked when print was king, but the new reality required significant change. Foremost in our minds was finding ways to reduce management layers, promote quicker decision-making, and enable faster movement of resources. We also had to more tightly focus our mission on our competitive edge — our knowledge of metro Atlanta, our deep local reporting resources, and our expertise on topics of local interest.
… our paper’s editor, Julia Wallace, along with a small leadership group, decided to abolish all existing departments and invent a new newsroom.
The newsroom structure now: Two content departments, News & Information and Enterprise, and two production departments, Print and Digital. All four “function in tandem,” McIntosh wrote, “which means that our newsroom system demands collaborative decision-making.” At the same time, each of the departments has its own role, described in McIntosh’s essay (scroll about halfway down to see the details).
What I do not see is any mention of news graphics. It appears that design and production are effectively split into print side and online side — but where are the people who create the infographics? Nowadays those folks need to be hybrid masters, straddling both digital and analog, Web and print, for the sake of efficiency as well as portability.
The AJC’s new “Web first” structure was only four months old when the essay was written, and not without tensions and stresses. McIntosh said she’s confident that the reorganization will work — in part because “our newsroom won’t continue to look the way we redesigned it earlier this year.” The new newsroom is supposed to be capable of changing, gradually or rapidly, as needed.
Romenesko had the memo when the re-org was announced — one year ago.
I love to hear from people who work in newsrooms that have been reorganized. I’ll keep my eyes open as I go to conferences for any name tags that say Atlanta Journal-Constitution!
Update (Feb. 19): Thanks to a reader, I discovered a fact error (in a pronoun). Shawn McIntosh is a woman. My apologies. Her job title at the AJC is Director of Culture and Change.