Posted on June 11, 2008
Practical workflow for journalism
The Associated Press is touting something they call “1-2-3 filing.” It reminds me of Bloomberg’s model (developed, what, 20 years ago?) and more recently, the BBC News online method. But derivative or not, it makes darned good sense. AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll explained the new model at the World Association of Newspapers conference on June 2.
Called “1-2-3 filing,” it starts with a news alert headline for breaking news, followed by a short present-tense story predominantly for the Web and broadcasters. The third step is to add details and format stories in ways most appropriate for different news platforms.
“I can’t emphasize to you the importance of present tense both in the newsroom and for the end user. It’s very much about news that is happening. It gives the news a sense of immediacy,” Carroll said. “The 3 then can become any number of things: a longer story, a multimedia presentation or nothing at all.”
“The 3” is what makes this really, really smart — it is an acknowledgment that some stories are finished after the brief is filed. It acknowledges that many stories do not ever warrant “a longer story” (yes! yes! yes!). And best of all, it recognizes that sometimes there is something better than a written story.
That is, some stories are better told without prose, without narrative, without text.
A study commissioned by the AP showed that young adults have profoundly different news consumption patterns from previous generations.
“People don’t walk out to the driveway to collect their newspaper. They open their e-mail,” Jim Kennedy, AP’s director of strategic planning, said in presenting the study. (Same source as above.)
I think a lot of newspaper editors get the idea of filing quickly for the Web site and having no set deadlines — often this idea is embodied in a thing called “the continuous news desk.” But what old-fashioned editors might fail to realize is that filing briefs is just treading water — merely keeping yourself afloat. If your online entity is to move forward, you need to start living and breathing “the 3.” You need to swim, and swim strong.
I think every morning the editors ought to sit down and ask what the site had yesterday that people would want to e-mail to their friends. What would the public discuss? What would they show to their colleagues? If you didn’t have some stuff that would make people say, “Look at this!”, then you’re not doing it right.
I don’t mean “Look at this!” just because it’s titillating. People say “Look at this!” because it’s new, it’s unexpected, it’s interesting. I will say it about a video, a photograph, an animated graphic, an interactive map. I will not often say it about a written story. (Sometimes, yes. But not often!)
I’m not suggesting that the newsroom should produce multimedia about every story that crosses anyone’s desk. That’s not the idea of 1-2-3. One story in 10, or 1 in 20 — or maybe even fewer stories — might warrant “the 3.” Newsrooms (and everyone in them) need to start assessing and measuring which stories those are.
Strategies, criteria, audience — quit throwing spaghetti against the wall and start talking about how to reach the other side of the Olympic-size swimming pool.