This week our newsroom at The Vancouver Sun made substantial changes to the processes of online and print production.
About a year ago our company determined there could be improvements to production that would permit more of our journalists to work more often with content and less often with the mechanical function of pagination (eventually, too, when we roll out a new content management system this will mean less time spent on the mechanical function of posting to the Web).
We set about consulting our journalists, looking at changes in other newsrooms, and determining the best made-in-Vancouver solution. Dozens of our editors, reporters, photographers, designers and assistants helped build the plan. Elements of it were implemented as soon as they were devised.
Some were encouraging us to fully integrate online and print editing and production, while others were pressing upon us the need to segregate the purer functions of coordinating content in those media.
All were agreed: We had to have a Web-first culture, more multi-platform journalism, more ventures into databases and automated data entry to take some of the tedium away from journalists to let them do better things with their precious time. At the same time, we didn't want to take our eye off the newspaper. For the foreseeable future, it will be paying the bulk of the bills.
Our first cut at this new era took hold this week and the most prominent impact is on our editors. We have spliced our editing operation into several functional roles: those who line-edit content, those who lay it out for print, those who coordinate its presence online, those who review the material pre-publication for quality control. We did keep some Web workers separate and accorded them production responsibilities for particular departments of the content, but our newsgatherers are multi-platform. They file first to the Web, then for the paper at day's end. And they write their own headlines.
In the end the content has fewer "touches" from editors, but mainly that is a good thing. News service material, already edited at least once and sometimes two or three times, was being edited again by us and reviewed again by a headline writer and perhaps again by a proofreader. We think we've found the right level of attention involves the right level of non-duplication.
For months we have been shifting pagination of non-local content pages to an in-company service in another city, Hamilton, which now produces pages for hundreds of newspaper clients worldwide. We still make the decisions on stories, photos and the hierarchy of pages locally, but Hamilton writes display copy (which we in turn review before publication). It has been a welcome relief and permitted our newsroom to accommodate some cuts without affecting the quality of our production. Without this service, I'm not sure we'd be able to increase our digital output and fulfill our print mandate simultaneously.
There were several birthing pains, but sorry (in some way) to say nothing worth noting that might help anyone else. The planning paid off.
The real evidence of the change will come in the next week, because our first few days also involved a significant amount of training. That training won't stop, but I doubt it'll be as intense as this week was. I doubt anything soon will be this intense, for that matter.