Media management Sat, 23 Jun 2018 14:41:05 +0100 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management - Version 3.8.8 en-gb (David Brewer) The production process, the role of the producer Journalists at DRT, Buôn Mê Thuột, Đắk Lắk taking part in news production training

Journalists at DRT, Buôn Mê Thuột, Đắk Lắk taking part in news production training

The importance of the news producer

The news producer has an essential role to play in any news organisation. Their job is to add depth to the content being produced, make sure it is well-researched, arrange interviews, manage resources, assist reporters and correspondents with logistics involved in gathering and processing news, and oversee quality control.

They will ensure that all significant angles are followed up, and that related issues are investigated. Their job is to take the overview.

In many cases they are the bridge between the editors and reporters, ensuring that both can do their jobs efficiently and effectively. Some media organisations try to cope without news producers.

They expect the journalists and correspondents to take care of all their production needs. Of course the stories will still get produced, but the likelihood is that they will not be as thorough, that effort and resources might be wasted, and, that, sometimes, deadlines won’t be met.

At times the news producers will be offering support from the newsroom, at other times they will be in the field. When they are working in the field, the relationship with the reporter or correspondent will probably be one-to-one.

However, when they are working from the newsroom, a good news producer might be able to help several journalists at the same time. And this is where the efficiencies start to show.

The role of the news producer

In an earlier module we looked at the best way to run an news meeting. The graphic, below, is taken from that training module as a reminder of the important role the news producer plays in the news business.

This graphic is taken from that training module as a reminder of the important role the news producer plays in the news business

A journalist should be able to gather most of the information they need in order to produce a story. However, they are often out of the office where access to computers can be a problem.

They might be working to tight deadlines, and unable to research adequately. Perhaps they need to contact someone at short notice but don’t have the time to make the calls. It could be that they need access to look through archive material to add to their piece, but they don’t have time to search for it or are unable to get back to the office in time.

They might need a comment from a correspondent for the piece, but are unable to contact them. At times they might need to refer up the editorial chain regarding a legal or ethical matter, but a senior editor is not available.

These are the times when a news producer, sitting in the office or working in the field, is invaluable. They can take on all these responsibilities. The graphic below shows how the process should work.

Graphic of the production process taken from a training module by Media Helping Media

The qualities of a news producer

In some media organisations a news producer is a specialist job, requiring someone with a keen eye for a news story, has great research skills, can demonstrate excellent organisational abilities, and who is able to see the bigger picture.

In some newsrooms the news producer is a career-progression role between the reporter and the editors. If they have worked as a reporter, both in the newsroom and in the field, they will be able to understand the pressures the journalist they are facing is under and will be able to provide the support they need.

Efficiencies and savings

For media managers, having news producers can result in efficiencies and savings.

They can help avoid duplication of effort, they can help manage scarce resources, they can help schedule editing to remove log jams and better utilise downtime, and they can act as a reference point where both senior and junior staff can turn in order to assess the status of a story and when it is expected to be ready.

Copyright: The text, graphic and image in this training module are from Media Helping Media ( and are released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0.

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]]> (David Brewer) Media Management Thu, 17 Jan 2008 13:12:53 +0000
The importance of social media in news production and news dissemination Some media organisations fail to take social media seriously. Image by Depone and released under Creative Commons

Some media organisations fail to take social media seriously. Image by Depone and released under Creative Commons

The challenges and opportunities presented by social media

Social media is an increasingly disruptive force on the media landscape.

It challenges traditional, mainstream media to reconsider how they operate.

Social media often releases information about which mainstream media might not have been aware, and information that mainstream media might have tried to ignore.

It can offer a wider, more diverse perspective on life than that covered by traditional media.

It challenges mainstream media’s editorial standards, and makes editors think again about their values and ethics.

It offers mainstream media opportunities to tap into conversations, learn about social change, and connect with those who were previously out of reach.

It provides a direct link from a media organisation to a connected, empowered, and active audience, and, in doing so, totally changes that relationship.

And yet, surprisingly, some media organisations fail to take social media seriously, or, perhaps worse, totally misunderstand what it is about and, therefore, respond inadequately.

An empowered audience

In an earlier module we looked at the importance of “Identifying the target audience and its information needs”, then we considered “Adapting to changing audience behaviour and monitoring the market”.

Those modules looked at who makes up the target audience, the issues that concern them most, the devices they use to consume and share news, and how they interact with news.

We then looked at how a media organisation should adapt to meet the challenges and opportunities presented by changing audience behaviour in our module entitled “Newsroom evolution from digital denial to digital first”.

Now we look at what a social media strategy could mean for a media organisation.

But first, let’s look at how we got to this stage in media’s development. 

Media evolution

The media is in a constant state of change, or at least it should be.

Technological advances, leading to changing audience behaviour, resulting in altered attitudes to consuming and sharing news, which means that a media organisation can’t afford to stand still.

Innovation is needed, but only if it makes business sense.

There have been many stages of media evolution over the years, below we look at three. The “broadcast AT or publish AT” model, the “engage with on our terms” model, and the “participate in” model.

Broadcast AT and publish AT model

This is the model where the broadcasters and publishers thought they knew best.

They would broadcast and published programmes and information to a passive audience who consumed what they were given.

There was no interactivity, and the output reflected the choices made by the journalists, not the audience.

This resulted in a limited perspective of society, usually representing that of the owners of the media organisation, the state, or the editors and journalists who were producing the content.

That model is dead.

We then moved to the ‘engage with on our terms’ model.

Engage with on our terms model

In this model, mainstream media offered limited interactivity. It could be in the form of studio debates, vox pops conducted in the street, or, in the case of print, letters to the editor.

Some media organisations had websites, and would run polls and invite comments, but these were usually heavily pre-moderated and monitored, and were about issues that the broadcasters and publishers wanted to discuss.

Audience participation was carefully controlled, with the audience selected based on a journalists assessment of the public’s value to the story.

That model is in it’s death throes. Now we are in the ‘participate in’ model.

Participate in model

The ‘participate in’ model is where audience engagement is part of the editorial proposition.

It’s where stories are built around the issues the audience is discussing in the street, in their homes and on social media.

Please refer to our modules entitled “Identifying the target audience and its information needs” and “Establishing a market differential with original, in-depth, issue-led journalism”.

It’s about having an active unit in the newsroom who use social media to monitor what the audience is saying, share stories from the newsroom, stimulate a debate, and then watch that debate develop while feeding those developments back into the news production process.

This strategy will not only bring a media organisation closer to its audience, but it is also likely to increase engagement around the content being produced, while, at the same time, winning audience trust.

It will mean that output will be enriched to reflect audience concerns.

What is required

A modern media organisation needs to have a social media editor, or at least a member of staff whose job it is to monitor social media. Ideally, they will be sitting at the central superdesk in a converged newsroom. Please refer to our training module entitled “Convergence, roles and responsibilities and workflows”.

The social media editor or producer has an important role to play. They will:

  • attend all the main news meetings.
  • be called on to contribute ideas based on what the target audience is discussing on social media.
  • use free tools, such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to monitor audience groups and key words in order to track story developments.
  • be expected to be offering news alerts when news breaks on social media.
  • stimulate the conversation of the day based on the main news stories being produced by the converged newsroom.
  • monitor that conversation and feed updates back into the news production process.
  • ensure consistent cross-promotion between news and programmes via social media.
  • monitor any UGC (user-generated content) in terms of images, video, sound and graphics submitted by the audience.
  • suggest story treatment ideas based on the results of their social media monitoring.

Smart media managers will realise that for the news to truly reflect the concerns of the target audience they will need to exploit the opportunities and benefits of social media, and not see it as an unwelcome distraction.

And if you are thinking in terms of a wider reach via social media on new, continually-developing platforms/devices, you will be helping to ensure that your media organisation is always responsive to new revenue-generating opportunities.

Copyright: The text, and graphic in this training module are from Media Helping Media ( and are released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0

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]]> (David Brewer) Media Management Thu, 17 Jan 2008 13:12:53 +0000
Story development, ensuring all angles are covered

Images use in slide by Magalie L'Abbé and Kara Vanmalssen and are released under Creative Commons

Asking the questions that need to be asked

In a previous module we looked at the topic of proactive journalism, where journalists are encouraged to observe, learn, reflect, analyse, and add context when producing news stories. In this module we look at story development.

This module is about thinking of the related stories, or angles, that can be produced in order to help explain the main story and enhance the audience understanding of the issue being covered.

For this exercise we consider a recurring story in Vietnam - flooding - and we look at the various angles that could be followed up. First we have the main story.

1: The story

This is fairly straight forward. We just need to ask the basic journalistic questions of what, why, when, how, where and who. So, in creating the main story we need to ask:

  • What has happened?
  • Why did it happen?
  • When did it happen?
  • How did it happen?
  • Where did it happen?
  • Who does it affect?

Asking these question should give us the main story and headline.

But responsible reporting that aims to inform the public debate with robust investigative journalism needs to go further. Let’s look at what we have to work on from the main story.

2: The facts

Now we can start to expand the story using the story development model. We need to start to piece together the facts, or the evidence. And these so-called ‘facts’ need to be examined, tested and proven to be accurate by confirming with at least two independent sources.

  • What do we know?
  • Is our information accurate?
  • What is the source?
  • Why are they sharing?
  • What facts could be missing?
  • What don’t we know?
  • Who should we talk to?
  • Why are they important?
  • What could be hidden?
  • Who is doing the hiding?

By this stage we will have built up a story plan which, when we discuss with our news team, will produce several ideas for follow up angles (related stories).

What we are able to piece together at this point are the following:

  • Flooding fact file - a list of bullet points.
  • Flooding maps - where the flooding happened.
  • Flooding profiles - background information on the area most affected.

Having gathered some facts we now need to look at the data used to support the evidence.

3: The data

  • What is the source of the data?
  • Is it reliable?
  • Can you verify?
  • Check with officials, NGOs, campaigners, academics.
  • Seek out regional comparisons regarding flooding in other provinces, regions, neighbouring countries.
  • Find out what is the history of flooding in the area?
  • Check whether any projections were made in the past that could have reduced the impact?

At this stage something interesting is starting to happen. As we dig deeper, new story angles are emerging.

Let’s consider just a few that might be inspired by point three.

  • The flooding: campaigners warn that it could happen again.
  • The flooding: comparisons between regions - how others are coping.
  • The flooding: officials say relief and aid will arrive in time.

Now we need to get first-hand experiences to illustrate the story.

Of course we will have some personal experiences in the main story, but once we establish what has happened, and understand the scale compared to previous floods, we can now ask more intelligent questions when talking to the victims.

4: Who is affected?

  • What is their story?
  • Before the incident, during the incident, after the incident.
  • Who do they care for and who still needs help?
  • Who can’t get help?
  • What help is offered?

At this point we will have a series of personal accounts of the flooding.

  • The flooding: the victims tell their stories.
  • The flooding: the annual disaster that has become a way of life.
  • The flooding: the communities still stranded and in need of help.

Having spoken to people affected by the flooding we can now look at who is responsible, and what was the cause.

5: Responsibility

  • Who or what was responsible?
  • What went wrong?
  • Why did it go wrong?
  • Were all possible preventative measures taken?
  • What are the authorities doing?
  • Will it happen again?
  • If not, why not?
  • If it will, what can be done?

This should produce some fairly straight-forward angles for story follow up, including:

  • The flooding: Who was to blame? Officials, NGOs and campaigners point the finger.
  • The flooding: Authorities say preventative measures planned.
  • The flooding: Did local communities ignore warnings?

Having attempted to establish responsibility, we can also look at promises made in the past.

6: The promises

  • In the present and in the past.
  • Preventative measures promised.
  • Local authority plans.
  • Aid and relief offered.
  • Infrastructure changes suggested after the last floods.
  • Tackling the causes, deforestation, dams etc.
  • Compensation offered to those affected last time.
  • What fact-finding was carried out and what was done with the information.

Suggested follow up angles from the above include:

  • The flooding: learning from the lessons of the past.
  • The flooding: why preventative measures failed.
  • The flooding: did the aid get through to those in need?

This is the stage where our archive becomes valuable.

We will have material from previous coverage of the flooding. We need to include this in order to provide context. Please refer to the other training module in this series about “Proactive journalism”.

All the above helps us assess the scale of the problem and try to establish an accurate view of the impact.

7: The impact

  • Now and in the future.
  • On crops and the general economy.
  • The environment and whether it can recover.
  • Health issues related to contaminated water, lack of medicine etc.
  • Infrastructure, roads, railways, communications.
  • Communities cut off .
  • Families separated, unable to contact one another.
  • Individuals missing, injured, bereaved.

Some story ideas resulting from the above considerations could include:

  • The flooding: the economic impact on the environment.
  • The flooding: the cost of repairing the infrastructure.
  • The flooding: the impact on remote rural communities.

As the picture builds we are in a better position to view the consequences.

8: The consequences

  • A complete solution, part solution, or no solution.
  • Aid gets though, part aid gets through, or no aid gets through.
  • Changes in lifestyle for some and what happens to those who can’t change.
  • The economic future for all.

Such considerations could mean related stories being produced about:

  • The flooding: prevention plans for future years.
  • The flooding: the true cost of getting aid to those in need.
  • The flooding: lifestyle changes required to cope with annual disaster.

As we continue to develop angles, dig deep and explore the topic we will start to develop some ideas of who might be accountable.

9: Accountability

  • Who knew?
  • What action was taken?
  • Was it too early or late?
  • Who is to blame?
  • What local authority action was taken?
  • Were there warnings given?
  • Did the warnings reach those in danger?
  • Were the warnings heeded?
  • If not, why not?
  • Is there any suspicion of any corruption?

The considerations above could lead to more related stories such as:

  • The flooding: was enough done to prepare communities?
  • The flooding: were warnings ignored and, if so, why?
  • The flooding: the hidden factors that increased the likelihood of a disaster.

The question of corruption will come up as we start to assess accountability. We then need to look to the future.

10: The future

  • What is the plan?
  • What are the options?
  • Who will it involve?
  • What are the changes?
  • Will they be phased?
  • Is any adjustment needed?
  • Is any training needed?
  • What are the contingency plans?
  • Is any education needed?
  • What are the community plans?

This list provides us with several related story ideas, including:

  • The flooding: future plans to prevent another disaster.
  • The flooding: campaign to educate those living under the risk of floods.
  • The flooding: community relocation plans to rehouse those at most risk.

Already we will probably have thought up 10 different angles on the flooding story with at least three related stories for each angle.

At this stage we should have at least 30 original story ideas that attempt to explain the complexity of the issue we are covering on behalf of our audience.

This is story development. This is in-depth, robust, responsible journalism aimed at fully informing the public debate. But all this material needs managing. This task might be taken on by the planning editor. In an earlier module we discussed the role of the planning editor and his/her team. They will need to ensure the story is followed up.

11: The follow up

  • Set a follow up date.
  • Three or six months.
  • List questions to ask.
  • Note promises/targets.
  • Check timetables.
  • Keep archive.
  • Revisit victims.
  • Check with authorities.
  • Interview experts.
  • Arrange studio debates.

Of course the planning role will also produce new story opportunities, such as:

  • The flooding: six months / a year on - what has changed?
  • The flooding: from our archive - a special report on communities under water.
  • The flooding: studio debate - the experts meet the public face-to-face.

And while all this is going on there will be a need to engage the audience in debate via the social media platforms used by victims, aid agencies, authorities, concerned relatives, and general public.

12: Engaging the audience

  • Discuss on Facebook.
  • Use other social media.
  • Ask for experiences.
  • Interview people.
  • Stimulate debate.
  • Ask questions.
  • Offer answers.
  • Publish fact files.
  • Publish maps.
  • Offer help and support.

And this part will also produce related stories, including:

  • The flooding: How social media responded.
  • The flooding: Your pictures of the disaster.
  • The flooding: Interactive maps and timelines for you to share.

An example to apply to all big stories

The methods outlined above can’t be applied to every story; newsrooms don’t have the resources for that. However, such treatment should be considered for big, recurring stories or events where there is significant local impact, and where there is likely to be a growing archive of previously-prepared material.

To help us decide what stories deserve such detailed story development we can use two tools that are shared on this site. One is the “content value matrix”, and the other is the “story weighting system”.

Both are designed to help media managers and journalists focus resources on the stories that are of most value to the target audience.

Copyright: The text and graphic in this training module are from Media Helping Media ( and are released under Creative Commons BY-NC 4.0. The images use in slides are by Magalie L’Abbé, Kara Vanmalssen and meducauk and are also released under Creative Commons.

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]]> (David Brewer) Media Management Thu, 17 Jan 2008 13:12:53 +0000
Proactive journalism, ensuring issues are fully explained to the audience Journalists at VTV in Hanoi taking part in proactive journalism training

Proactive journalism training at VTV, Hanoi

Informing the public debate

Sometimes journalists become lazy. When this happens, the news they produce becomes superficial and shallow. They take information at face value. They fail to dig deeper. This is weak journalism.

In fact, in some cases, it stops being journalism, and becomes a production process where information is republished without any analysis, context or added value.

Journalists become channels for public relations material and propaganda, failing to apply any critical evaluation of the material being processed.

There are ways journalists can focus on the stories that really matter to their target audience, and invest time and effort in order to explore those stories fully.

This proactive journalism tool should help. It’s a tool used by Media Helping Media in media development and commercial media strategy work for several years. It’s been developed from a idea by Dr. Eric Loo, a journalist and senior lecturer in journalism.

Proactive journalism

There are five steps involved in proactive journalism.

The first, observing, is what most journalists already do; the problem is that many stop there.

That’s unfortunate, because there are at least four more steps to take in order to produce rich journalism that informs the public debate.

The other four important steps in proactive journalism are learning, analysing, reflecting and contextualising.

Let’s look at each in more detail, starting with observing.

1: Observing

This is what most journalists do every day.

They watch, listen, sense and absorb information, which they then put together to form a news story.

But even this simple step is often executed badly. Perhaps they are in a rush, or under pressure. Perhaps they think that the news release or wires copy they have been given works fine without any extra effort.

But if journalists just reproduce what they have been given, they are letting both their audience and their media organisation down. They can do better.

Even with the first stage in proactive journalism, journalists need to be digging deeper.

If you have been given a news release, or have attended an organised event and have just heard a speech, you don’t have a news story.

All you have at that stage is some material from which you can start to construct a news story.

Ask yourself whether what you have been told matches what you have witnessed?

If not challenge those circulating the information, and contact those affected. Is what you have been told reflecting the views of one particular group of people?

If so, what other voices are needed to complete the story. Is the material critical of others? If so, they need to be given the chance to reply.

Are those sharing the information with you making strong claims? If they are, then what they are saying needs to be tested with independent data.

Your job is to listen to what those involved in the story are saying, and question every assumption.

You must never accept information on face value. Most people will be trying to push their point of view; your job is to reflect those views in a wider context, not simply repeat them in isolation.

Try to get a sense of what might be behind the story in terms of the other actors involved. There will usually be at least two sides to every story, but often many more voices to be heard.

And never report what you have been given as fact, always use qualifying words such as ‘claimed’, ‘alleged’ and ‘said’.

So far the above is fairly straight forward, now let’s look at the next step, learning.

2: Learning

This is where you need to make sense of what you are being told.

This will involve researching the validity of the information being shared.

You need to challenge everything. If you are in any doubt at all, you need to seek clarification.

You must never repeat what you don’t understand or can validate and justify. If the issue isn’t clear, you need to find new angles in order to help people understand old and current events.

The learning process means that you retain an open mind and strive to find new ways to explore the issue you are uncovering.

Make a list of all the points you don’t understand, and go through those points one by one until you are absolutely clear, and can explain even a complicated case or situation in plan and straightforward language.

As you do, you will uncover new angles, and you will become aware of information gaps that you will need to fill before you broadcast or publish the information.

At this stage you will have three elements to your story.

  1. What you have been told,
  2. What you have observed,
  3. What you have learnt.

Now you can move on to the next step, which is analysing what you have got.

3: Analysing

A simple way to do this is to make a list of what you have so far.

This will include what you have been told, what you have observed and what you have learnt.

You need to list all the significant elements of a story and then assess the likely impact on the lives of the people involved and others indirectly affected by the events you are covering.

You should also consider the reach of the story in terms of how many people it will affect. It could be that there are far more people involved than was apparent when the story first broke.

And once you have expanded the material you have on the story, you need to step back and reflect on what you have found.

You now have;

  1. What you have been told,
  2. What you have observed,
  3. What you have learnt,
  4. What you have deducted through analysing the evidence you have uncovered.

4: Reflecting

This is where it might be helpful to consult someone. It might be the editor, a producer or a colleague. It doesn’t matter. You just need someone to help you assess what you have uncovered.

During this process you need to ensure that you have included all significant voices and views.

You need to challenge all assumptions, especially your own.

Most of all, you need to ensure you apply editorial integrity, objectivity, impartiality, fairness and accuracy to your news gathering.

It could be that the story you thought you had has changed. It could be that the exiting top line you had thought up for a headline is no longer valid. It could be that the story is weak and needs to be dropped, or it could be that the story is the strongest your newsroom has covered this year and is going to win a prize.

You won’t be able to judge that on your own; including colleagues is essential if you are to reach the right conclusion as to the strength of the story.

Now you can begin to add context to your report.

5: Contextualising

This is where you need to offer information that will help the audience understand the significance of the news event you are covering.

The death of 10 people following flooding is tragic, but if the death toll was 1,000 the previous year, that information needs to be added to put the latest events into context.

The deaths will be devastating for the local community who have lost loved ones, their livelihood and perhaps their homes, but you need to know whether warnings were given in the past and why they were not heeded.

So you need to look for patterns. Has this story happened before? When? What was the outcome? You also need to look for local, regional, national and international comparisons where appropriate.

It might be that by taking a wider view you uncover a much bigger story. Does a recent controversial contract for a hydro-electric dam downstream have any bearing on flooding? 

Check the archives, explore the history of the story, continue to research deeper in order to get to the root of the matter. This is all part of the process of finding out why a story is important and adding that context so that you enhance the understanding of the audience.

You need to find out where it fits into the bigger picture. You need to uncover the relationships between what you are covering and previous events.

It will be essential to find out what part politics and business plays in the story; perhaps there is a suspicion of corruption and dishonest dealing. 

Story development

We discuss more about these ideas, and how they can be put into practice, in our training module about story development.

In that module, we take the story of flooding in Vietnam and apply two of the tools in this series - the proactive journalism tool and the story development tool - in order to squeeze all the information out of the event for the benefit of our audience.

This is because you work on behalf of the audience. They are not in a position to speak to the powerful and influential, you are. You work on their behalf, and to do your job properly, you need to be professional in the way you treat the information you are sharing with your audience.

Extra workload

If, after reading this you are thinking that you and your journalists don’t have the time to do the above, consider whether it’s worth doing fewer stories better.

There are some tips on how to priorities effort in our training modules about story weighting and the journalism value matrix.

Whatever tools you use, your job is to inform the public debate. You do this by digging where others are afraid to dig, by scrutinising the executive, by holding the powerful to account, and by shining a light in dark places. All these actions are part of proactive journalism.

And if you are not challenging the information you are given, you are failing as a journalist and are just providing an outlet for PR (public relations) information and propaganda.

Note: The concept for this training module is developed from an idea by Dr. Eric Loo, a journalist and senior lecturer in journalism.

Copyright: The text, images and graphics in this training module are from Media Helping Media and are released under Creative Commons BY-NC 4.0.

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]]> (David Brewer) Media Management Thu, 17 Jan 2008 13:12:53 +0000
Creating a journalism content weighting system Image of weighing scales by The Open University and released under Creative Commons

Image of weighing scales by The Open University and released under Creative Commons

Assessing the value of stories

Different stories have different value to both your audience and to your business.

Some stories are fairly superficial without much depth. Such stories might be small, breaking news stories about a fire, an accident, or a new business development.

It might be possible to set out the main facts in a short piece with little or no in-depth analysis.

Other stories require investigation, further development, and a proactive approach to news gathering and news production.

This will often involve investing resources and effort to ensure the issue is explored fully.

So it doesn’t make sense to treat all stories equally. Which means that senior editors, news producers and reporters have to decide how much effort a story is worth.

This is where a story weighting system is invaluable. Let’s look at how it works.

Story weighting

story weighting graphic released by Media Helping Media under Creative Commons

In the graphic above you will see three story types.

For the sake of this module they are labelled S1, S2, and S3.

An S1 story is one with high-value information, which involves in-depth reporting, is original, and has rich interactive digital assets (elements).

An S2 story is an important story, rich in information, and which deserves some digital interactivity.

An S3 story is a smaller story that needs to be told, but which doesn’t require interactivity.

You might decide there are other story types, but there is a benefit in keeping the system simple, which are explained below.


Once a story has been given a weighting and a label, everyone in the news organisation knows what is required and what will be involved in producing the material.

The editors won’t have to sit down with each producer and reporter in order to tell them what they want in terms of elements; the story weighting system will have already set that out.

They won’t need to explain how long the piece is expected to be; the story weighting system will have already set out those parameters and expectations.

These parameters will have been set earlier as senior editors aim to cover the needs of the target audience, manage the newsroom resources that are available, priorities output, and ensure content is produced for all devices.

Once the story weighting rules have been set and circulated, all in the news process understand what is required.

Such a system speeds up the whole process of news planning. It improves the efficiency of news meetings. It helps editors brief reporters and producers because they already know what is expected.

And news delivery deadlines are clearer, and therefore more likely to be met.

Now let’s look at these story types in more depth.

The descriptions below are just there to illustrate the concept. These will change depending on how each news organisation chooses to define the story types. You might give the story types different names; that doesn’t matter.

What matters is that you create your own system aimed at maximum newsroom efficiency and productivity.

Note: This system works perfectly in a converged newsroom.

An S1 story type

An S1 story will probably be an exclusive, or a massive breaking/developing news story which is of importance to your audience.

Those who rely on you for reliable and accurate news coverage will be returning to their screens several times during the day for updates.

They will be eager to know the latest developments.

Such a story will have an impact on their lives. Therefore, it makes sense for you to ensure that you allocate sufficient resources to the story in order that it is told properly.

For example, an S1 story might involve a lengthy package on TV with at least three clips of three different people making three different points.

It will probably involve lots of footage illustrating the issue being covered, perhaps a vox pop of people in the street.

There might be some graphics, and it could include a piece to camera (stand up), at the end.

In interactive terms, an S1 story might involve several related stories, video clips, a timeline, an infographic, a bullet-point fact file, interactive maps, a photo gallery, and, perhaps, a poll/vote.

It will certainly include social media engagement.

There will also be related stories and links to the archive for added context.

Producing this amount of material, and allocating sufficient resources to it, will mean that other, less important stories that are also on the news agenda will have to be treated differently or dropped.

Based on the above, the editors defining your story weighting system will add timing for all the above helping the producers and reporters understand when the material will be required.

And that is where story weighting is valuable. The editor in charge of the day’s output gives each story a weighting so that everyone knows what is required and what is the priority.

An S2 story type

This story type is also important, but perhaps not the lead or second lead story.

It will be a story that demands fewer resources and less effort than the S1 story type.

For example, an S2 story type might have a shorter package for TV, with perhaps two clips putting different sides of the story, it will involve some footage from the scene of the event being covered, it might require a graphic, there will probably be a piece to camera at some point in the package.

In interactive terms it will probably be a 300-500 word read with some video clips and an infographic. There will be some social media response added in order to engage the audience. There might be one or two related stories.

It will take less time and effort to produce than an S1 and, therefore, the journalist producing it will be working to a shorter timetable.

An S3 story type

This story type will be a general news piece that requires little effort. It will be a straight-forward breaking or developing news item. 

For TV, it will probably be a voice-over script, perhaps with an piece to camera at the end. In interactive terms, it’s probably a straight 300-word read with an image or graphic. 

An S3 story shouldn’t take too long to produce.

Managing the newsroom output with story weighting

Now we have the story types, we can see how the editor-of-the-day can produce an overview of the main stories to be covered.

Below is a fictitious list of stories that might be considered for a TV bulletin, with the story weighting coding set out on the right.

This system means that everyone attending the news meeting, or checking on the news prospects during the day, is able to see exactly what is required, the resources to be allocated, and the time it should take to produce the material.

The story weighting system also prioritises effort on the stories that are of most value to the target audience.

This, in turn, makes the management of news far more systematic and focused on business priorities, which, in turn, leads to greater efficiency, a saving in costs, a stronger editorial proposition, and more informed and motivated staff.

Copyright: The text and graphics in this training module are from Media Helping Media and are released under Creative Commons BY-NC 4.0. The image of weighing scales is by The Open University and is also released under Creative Commons.

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]]> (David Brewer) Media Management Thu, 17 Jan 2008 13:12:53 +0000
Prioritising production effort with the content value matrix Journalists at VTV in Hanoi learning about the content value matrix, image by Media Helping Media released under Creative Commons

Staff at VTV, Hanoi, learning about the content value matrix

How to prioritise newsroom effort

There are many demands on a newsroom.

There is the routine flow of news releases and stage-managed events that need to be covered.

There are the stories from the various wires services.

There are the unexpected breaking and developing news stories.

There are the original stories which journalists stumble across in the course of their work.

And there are well-planned, in-depth reports, produced by reporters investigating issues and uncovering previously unpublicised information.

In this module we look at a tool that can be used to help media managers priorities effort and resources on the stories that really matter to the target audience.

If implemented, you will find that resources, previously allocated to stories of little interest to your audience, can be saved and reinvested in the stories that support your content and market differential.

The content value matrix

Managing all the news sources mentioned above is a challenge.

Running a modern, converged news operation, delivering content to multiple devices, 24 hours a day, is like being on a treadmill; there is so much to do that editors sometimes find it hard to stop and take a hard look at the material being produced.

That is why a content review is required from time to time to ensure that journalists are being deployed strategically, and that the work they are doing is meeting the information needs of the target audience.

Image of content value matrix by Media Helping Media released under Creative Commons

The content value matrix will help media managers focus resources on the stories that matter, and it will help them drop - or reconsider - the stories that the audience doesn’t find interesting.

Essential data

Before you start you will need to gather some data.

This can be from audience research, or it can be from analysing the visits to your online and mobile material.

Use this data to find out which stories the audience values the most. Then plot the stories in a graph.

Draw a vertical line on a white board. This is your cost line. At the top put a plus sign and at the bottom a minus sign.

Now draw a horizontal line through the middle. This is your audience appreciation line.

On the left put a minus sign, and at the right put a plus sign.

Now enter the stories as a scatter chart.

Box 1 - high audience value, low production costs

Stories in the top left quadrant, Box 1, are stories that the audience values, and which are not costly to produce.

These are the stories on which you should focus. The more you do of these stories, the more the audience will appreciate your news service, and the more efficient you will be.

The challenge you face is to remain focussed on these stories and avoid being distracted by trivial news that has no real value to your audience or to your business.

Box 2 - high audience value, high production costs

Stories in the top right quadrant, Box 2, are stories that the audience values, but which are costly to create.

The challenge for you as a media manager is to move these stories into the top left quadrant, Box 1, so that they remain stories the audience values, but they are not costly to produce.

This will mean you will need to introduce more efficient workflows. Introducing a converged newsroom will help you achieve this. 

Box 3 - low audience value, low production costs

Now let’s look at the bottom left quadrant, Box 3.

You will notice that these stories are not costly to produce but, so far, have not been valued by the audience.

Stories in this quadrant deserve some analysis. It could be that these stories are important in terms of informing the public debate, but your journalists haven’t been telling them properly, or haven’t been producing them in a compelling way.

Take some time to consider how these stories can be moved into Box 1.

It could be that some in-house training is needed in how to write scripts, use images or interview people.

It could be as simple as organising training in better headline writing.

This might not be a time-consuming task, but the more of these stories you can move to Box 1 the better.

Box 4 - low audience value, high production costs

Now let’s look at all the stories that fall into Box 4.

These are stories that are costly to produce and which the audience doesn’t value.

This is the easiest decision to make. Simply stop doing these stories and, instead, transfer resources to the other three boxes.

The aim of the content value matrix

Carry out this exercise at least once a year; preferably every six months.

It will help you evaluate what you are producing, how you are producing it, how you promote it, and whether it still meets the needs of your target audience - on which your entire news business logic is built.

Copyright: The text, image and graphic in this training module are from Media Helping Media and are released under Creative Commons BY-NC 4.0.

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]]> (David Brewer) Media Management Thu, 17 Jan 2008 13:12:53 +0000
Convergence, workflows, roles and responsibilities

Image of RIA Novosti newsroom Moscow by Jürg Vollmer released under Creative Commons

The benefits of convergence

A converged newsroom operates like a content factory, responsible for all intake, production and output.

It gathers and processes raw material, creates different products, and then ensures they are delivered to the target audience.

In this module we look at how it is done.

The superdesk

This module is about the workflows and roles and responsibilities that make a converged newsroom run smoothly.

Below is a graphic setting out what a typical superdesk might look like.

The model for a superdesk in a converged/integrated news operation

Both intake (everything that comes into the news operation), and output (everything that is delivered from the news operation to the audience on multiple devices) need to be close together.

Ideally, representatives of both will sit around the same desk.

If space is an issue, and one desk can’t be set up, then they need to be sitting close together.

They need to be able to communicate and collaborate at all times in order to respond swiftly to changes in news priorities.

People give this desk different names. Some call it the news hub, some the news cog; it doesn’t matter what it’s called, what matters is what it does. For this series of training modules we are calling this desk the superdesk.

The superdesk is the newsroom’s central command-and-control.

It’s where all the main news decisions are made. It serves as a responsive, dynamic focal point for everything to do with the smooth running of the news organisation.

Who sits around the superdesk?

Those sitting around the super desk need to be breathing the same air, hearing the same news alerts, and be taking part in impromptu news meetings, called to deal with the unexpected.

Choosing who sits at the superdesk is up to you.

That decision will depend on your overall strategy and who the main decision makers are in your news organisation.

It will also depend on where you need to prioritise effort, the most popular platforms/devices used by your target audience, and the resources available to you.

However, there are a number of important roles that should be represented on the superdesk.

These are roles, not necessarily individuals. For example, the intake editor role will probably need to be covered 24 hours a day for a large news organisation. In that case, the intake editor position on the superdesk should be a seat, populated by different people as working shifts change.

The exceptions might be the planning editor and the cross-promotions roles. They might be positions that need to be filled during the daytime only.

You will need an intake editor role. This is the person who is responsible for everything coming into the building.

You will need an output editor role. This is the person who provide the quality control for everything going out of the building and who liaises directly with production.

You will need someone from the interactive team. They need to ensure the website is publishing all breaking and developing news updates. They will also report to the superdesk regarding all developments on social media.

You will need someone to manage resources, and someone representing planning.

There are other roles you could add, but let’s start with the main ones.

The intake editor

Image of guard dog by Poppy Wright released under Creative Commons 

The intake editor acts as the eyes and ears of your news business.

They are responsible for all the material that comes into your news production process.

This will include the news gathering efforts of your own team of journalists.

It will also involve responding to stories that are being fed by wires services, and monitoring the stories being covered by the competition.

The intake editor has the authority to call an instant, stand-up impromptu meeting when there is breaking news, in order to help the output team adjust to new developments.

They are, essentially, looking out of the building at all the elements that will inform and feed your news operation.

They are not responsible for output. This is an important point. That role falls to the output editor.

The output editor

Image of security guard by Janis Brass, released under Creative Commons

The output editor looks after quality control.

They are also responsible for ensuring deadlines are met.

They are the defender of the news brand. Nothing gets past the output editor that could damage that brand.

They ensure the material is accurate, that it’s objective, impartial and fair. Their job is to focus on production values.

They need to ensure all platforms are served.

They can’t afford to be distracted by watching the competition, keeping up to date with the wires services, and responding to input issues and logistics.

That’s why those tasks are the responsibility of the intake editor.

However, the two work closely together, although doing different jobs. They are in constant communication. 

Between them the main news decisions for the whole news operation rest.

Planning editor

Image of fortune teller by angeliathatsme released under Creative Commons

We discussed the strategic role of the planning editor in the module about forward planning.

The planning editor is responsible for managing the news organisation’s unique editorial proposition of in-depth, well-planned, investigative journalism, which provides your market differential.

The planning editor will attend all the main news meetings held at the superdesk.

They will offer at least one piece of original journalism a day, probably more than that.

They will listen to what is happening on the day and will ensure that all the major stories are followed up. The shared planning calendar will help. 

The planning editors role will not only take the pressure off the journalists working on the daily output, but it will also guarantee that there is a continuous stream of unique content produced on all platforms.

Interactive editor

Image of computer screens by elPadawan released under Creative Commons

Having someone from the interactive team sitting on the superdesk means that the online and mobile coverage will be able to respond faster to breaking news developments.

It also means that the superdesk will be informed about how the audience is responding to developing news, and it will provide a different perspective on news gathering and how news should be covered.

Similarly, having someone from the social media team, will alert the superdesk to developments on the various social media platforms used by the target audience.

This will ensure that the online and other digital versions of your output are not just an after thought, but are a central part of all you do.

And that will show through in your production values, which, in turn, might encourage the audience to engage with your content more.

This will also help with cross-promotion because your on air presenters can be briefed to drive audience traffic to the online and on mobile versions for any added value content.

Resource manager

Image of the lego juggler by Markus Lütkemeyer released under Creative Commons

This role is sometimes called the production manager.

This is the person who is responsible for all the resources required to produce the journalism.

This could be the camera crews, the vehicles, and the edit suites.

The resource manager needs to respond quickly once the intake editor has alerted the superdesk of a new story development, and the editorial team on the superdesk decides that information is so important that resources have to be shifted from a lesser story.

Cross-promotions producer

Some newsrooms have a cross-promotions producer. Their job is to ensure that all output areas are aware of what others are doing and that content is exploited for the maximum benefit of the news brand and the audience. 

They will work across TV, radio, print, online and mobile where appropriate. 

In some cases they will design teasers, in other cases they will make sure the material is produced by others.

Essentially, they will ensure there are no wasted opportunities.

Next we look at the workflow for a converged newsroom.

The converged newsroom workflow

The roles and responsibilities outlined above are just a guide.

You will need to design your own version of a superdesk so that it makes business sense for your media organisation.

But do try to keep intake and output as separate roles. And do ensure that you have a planning function.

Once you have reorganised, the workflow is fairly simple.

As has already been stated, the superdesk is your newsroom’s central command-and-control.

All the main news decisions are made here.

It is responsible for intake, planning and output.

As you will see from the graphic below, once those decision are made the instructions are sent to production - ideally via a representative attending the superdesk meetings.

The production teams then ensure that the appropriate platform-specific value is added to the story based on audience needs, device/platform capabilities, and strategic business logic.

That means that if they are working on the web or mobile versions they will add interactive timelines, infographics, photo galleries, video, and other digital assets, where appropriate.

If they are working on the TV version they will create TV packages that can cross-promote the digital assets being offered on the other platforms.

Production will no longer be carried out in isolation but as a part of a coherent and coordinated presentation on multiple devices.

Copyright: The material in this training module, including the graphics of the superdesk and the converged newsroom are from Media Helping Media and is released under Creative Commons BY-NC 4.0. The other images in this piece are also released under Creative Commons. The image of RIA Novosti newsroom Moscow is by Jürg Vollmer, the image of the guard dog is by Poppy Wright, the image of the fortune teller by angeliathatsme, and the image of the computer screens by elPadawan. All are released under Creative Commons.

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]]> (David Brewer) Media Management Thu, 17 Jan 2008 13:12:53 +0000
Running a successful news meeting Journalists at NTV in Vinh, Nghệ An, holding a news meeting during a training course

Journalists at NTV in Vinh, Nghệ An, holding a news meeting during a training course

Generating ideas by encouraging staff

Most newsrooms hold a morning news meeting. Some hold several meetings throughout the day.

These meetings are when the editor, or duty editor on shift, organises resources, sets out what is required, gives a clear outline of what news stories are going to be covered, and encourages ideas from the journalists attending.

Copies of the news diary should be available, including the news prospects, the planning agenda, running orders of any TV or radio bulletins, and a hand-over note from the outgoing duty editor.

The news diary will list events that are in the public domain, such as news conferences.

The forward planning prospects will be about original, in-depth journalism produced to meet the needs of your news organisation’s target audience. Please refer to our training module about itentifying the target audience and its needs.

In a large media organisation representatives of the various sections need to attend. In a small organisation it might be possible for most staff to attend.

If the news operation has a website, a representative of the interactive team should be present along with the person responsible for social media.

Representatives of the specialist units such as business, technology, health, environment, sport etc, should attend.

Specialist staff will be expected to have prepared for the meeting by digging around stories where they might be able to add value and insight.

The duty editor should ask them what is important in their particular areas of coverage.

It's important to have someone from the design team attending the meeting. Their job will be to create graphics to illustrate stories.

Ideally graphics should be consistent in style whether used on air, in print or online. They could be graphics designed to explain a point, or they might be promotional graphics to draw attention to a story.

Allocating resources

The hand-over notes, prospects, and planning notes, left behind by the previous shift, will help the duty editor plan what resources will be needed, and what to expect from the journalists. See the training module on story weighting.

There is no point committing valuable journalistic effort to make repeat calls and carry out research that has already been undertaken by another member of your news organisation’s staff.

Engaging the audience

The team which runs the interactive element of the website, such as forums, polls and UGC (user-generated content), has an important part to play in the morning meeting.

They might choose to speak last after they have heard all the ideas being floated around.

The interactive team sets up opportunities for audience engagement, and also feeds back audience responses into the editorial process.

It’s in everybody’s interest to run interactive features that can feed off news items and which can cross-promote those items across all platforms.

Multimedia offering

Similarly, the multimedia team will have a representative at the news meeting. They need to hear what stories are being produced and ensure that any audio and video, illustrating those stories, is made available online and on mobile.

Those visiting your news website might not use the other platforms on which your news organisation's information is presented.

They might not watch TV, read newspapers, or listen to the radio.

Your presentation of their daily intake of news on one particuar device might be the only contact they have with your news brand.

That is why it is important that you don't assume they have already seen the news elsewhere.

You might also have to act as a clearing house for all the other news being covered by others.

Your audience will expect you to sift through the hundreds of news stories, pick the most important 10 to 20, and present them in a way that makes sense to their lives. Please refer to our training module about creating a journalism content value matrix.

Managing productive news meetings

Most of us have attended dull news meetings where people are slouched on chairs, lacking ideas and unresponsive when called on.

In such cases it’s not surprising that the news produced in such an atmosphere is dull and uninteresting.

But the news meeting can be the point at which energy, innovation, imagination and great ideas can flood into the news process.

First you will need to have a clear idea of the outcome you want, but you will also need to encourage participation from every member of staff.

There should be no hiding places, no scapegoats and no favourites.

There needs to be a sense that every news meeting will unearth several news story ideas in the category of "had it not been for you the world would never have known."

Your staff need to know that it's not worth turning up if they don't have original ideas to contribute.

Here are 30 tips for running a stimulating news meeting that should help guarantee a steady stream of original stories.

1: Attention: Meet standing up or sitting on hard seats, not slouching on sofas. 

2: Punctuality: Be punctual and start on time, even if all have not arrived.

3: Urgency: Create a sense of urgency, and set a time limit for the meeting.

4: Pace: Keep things moving and avoid silences by injecting your own ideas.

5: Vision: Have a clear outline of what you think the news day should look like before you start the meeting.

6: Preparation: Encourage staff to read in (their own site/publication and the competition) before the meeting. They should not be catching up with what has already happened during the news meeting.

7: Alert: All attending should be totally across what you and your competition are covering and should have already thought through the next steps in the story and come up with some original angles to explore.

8: Expectations: Ensure staff realise that they are expected to find news, not be given it on a plate. If you run a new meeting like a soup kitchen, where staff will be spoon-fed and given hand-outs (news releases to rewrite), you will reduce the incentive for them to come up with their own ideas.

9: Distractions: Ban texting or phone calls (unless they are to do with a developing news story) during the meeting. Those attending should give their full attention.

10: Disciline: Discourage private conversations during the meeting; if someone has something to say, ensure they address the whole group.

11: Competition: Instil a sense of competitiveness in the meeting. People should be fighting to get their ideas accepted.

12: Clarity: Speak loudly and clearly, don’t drone. You need to make sure you are understood and that those contributing are, too.

13: Humour: Use humour where possible without trivialising the seriousness of the task in hand. Journalism should be fun as well as serious.

14: Enjoyable: Make sure the meeting is enjoyable; it sets the tone for the day. The meeting should motivate staff.

15: Participation: Generate an atmosphere of participation rather than one where people want to hide. This is best achieved by asking people how the news should develop rather than reading out a long, boring list of events that everyone is already covering.

16: Recap: If an important and complicated story has been discussed during the meeting, always recap on what has been agreed so that people are clear before moving on to the next issue.

17: Planning: Be across the day's prospects and planning diary and have copies printed out for all staff. Ensure the planning editor takes a leading role when they read out the original stories produced for the day. (Please refer to our training modules “Establishing a market differential” and “Forward planning for media organisations to ensure most efficient use of resources”.

18: Review: Spend five minutes asking what could have gone better on the last shift. Don't dwell on issues, but make sure that mistakes are corrected and your output continues to improve.

19: Congratulations: Mention where your news team beat the opposition the previous day, try to pinpoint why and celebrate success. Applaud where original journalism has triumphed.

20: Praise: Make sure you praise what was done well, not just the correspondent but the camera crew, the photographers, the producers and the editors. Blowing your team's trumpet for them is a great motivator.

21: Recognition: Show that you understand the difficulties of news gathering and what your team went through to produce the previous output. Most editors will have worked in the field; it's important your staff know you appreciate the issues they face in doing their jobs.

22: Teamwork: Stress continually that it is a team effort and everyone needs each other. Where there has been noticeable collaboration, say so and help others realise that, by working together, the quality of output will improve.

23: Responsibility: Encourage shared responsibility for all output. You are as strong as the weakest member of the team. Everyone needs to support one another.

24: Respect: Never criticise a member of staff in front of his or her peers. If you have an issue with someone, have a word with them later. Respect that there may be factors that you are unaware of, and be sure to take time to understand why problems happened. Please refer to our training modules “Managing people and setting objectives” and “Developing the potential of your staff”.

25: Correction: You have a responsibility to follow up on mistakes for the sake of those who made them and those who were affected by them, but always tackle failures in a separate meeting; they are not always best dealt with in the daily news meeting.

26: Offline: Don’t waste time with conversations that can be dealt with after the meeting. Make it clear what can be discussed in the news meeting and what should be dealt with offline.

27: Follow up: Allow time for brief one-to-one chats after the meeting ends if staff are unclear. Some may feel uncomfortable asking for clarification in public. Set aside 15 mins after the meeting for anyone who needs extra briefing. Please refer to our training module entitled “Creating a story weighting system” for some tips on how to ensure staff know what is expected of them.

28: Inclusiveness: Encourage participation, welcome ideas and don’t mock any. Some great ideas are often poorly presented at first.

29: Decisiveness: Ensure that decisions are made and move on. A presentation board gives a meeting focus and helps highlight the main points covered.

30: Complete: Don’t end a meeting with loads of loose ends. If you do, staff will be confused. They need to leave the meeting with a sense of purpose. 

Sum up at the end with a clear outline of how you expect the day ahead to develop. And thank people for taking part - and mean it.

Copyright: The text, graphic and image in this training module are from Media Helping Media ( and are released under Creative Commons BY-NC 4.0.

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]]> (David Brewer) Media Management Wed, 12 Sep 2007 03:21:15 +0100