Changing a newsroom seating plan can boost efficiency overnight
Channel 24 in Dhaka has an attractive TV newsroom. The news anchor sits at an elevated desk while the journalists produce the programme in the background. The camera angle is good, capturing the bustle of activity behind the scenes, without distracting attention from the bulletin.
From an audience perspective, it's not clear what everyone is doing, but that doesn't matter, the focus should be on the presenter. From a news organisation perspective, it's crucial that the right people are in the right place at the right time to ensure the most efficient and effective news production process.
Channel 24 runs well. Everyone knows their job. Things work smoothly. But, on my first day of five working with senior editors, I spotted a few areas where a simple rearrangement of the personnel and desks could make things work much better.
Putting the right people in the right places
I took some pictures of the newsroom and drew a sketch of the desks and chairs. I then rearranged the furniture, remembering what I'd learnt working at the BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera English. After making some tweaks based on the existing Channel 24 layout I had alternative newsroom design.
The result was a far more converged/integrated newsroom than they currently have. The following morning I presented the pictures, sketch and new seating plan to a dozen of Channel 24’s senior TV editors.
“I like it,” said Talat Mamun, Input Editor at Channel 24. “I need to think more about it,but it makes sense; we’ll do it one step at a time.”
We then went through the thinking behind the new setup, covering workflows, roles & responsibilities, long-term forward planning, assignments, the production process, resources management, and the integration of the interactive and social media team.
Talat is a strong editorial leader. He has the respect of his journalists. He is a bit of an action man, multitasking in an unsustainable way - and he knows it. What he needs are systems that make the news production process work smoother - he knows that, too.
So Talat has welcomed the challenge of introducing a converged/integrated digital-first newsroom. He’s looking at some simple quick wins to kick-start the process while a long-term plan is developed for the move to a new converged newsroom at Channel 24.
Moving to a converged/integrated news operation
Channel 24 has now set itself the task of adapting the plan to create a unique, Bangladeshi version of newsroom convergence reflecting practical, staffing and cultural differences, with a view to improving the efficiency and quality of output on TV and all digital devices.
If they get it right, they will find that every area of news production will improve because communication and collaboration will be better, commissioning and assignments will run more smoothly, planning will play a more central role, and input (intake) and output will be breathing the same air and hearing the same news calls, leading to faster response times and better use of resources and exploitation of content.
And they have a great opportunity, because Channel 24 is currently building a new HQ adjacent to the existing building. The newsroom will be located on the 14th floor. It will be open plan, ideal for convergence with panoramic views across east, west and south Dhaka. I visited it with the new CEO looking at how the space could be best used for the maximum advantage of the news organisation.
The new premises, increased space and fresh start will give Channel 24 a great opportunity to build a dynamic, interactive, digital-first news operation. And once they perfect the system they will have others knocking on their door asking for tips about how it’s done.
Newsroom integration/convergence 12-point checklist
- Work out your unique content/market differential
- Assess what your audience needs – content/platforms
- Establish a central command-and-control superdesk where all decision are made
- Separate intake (input) from output
- Integrate digital/interactive and social media in the main newsroom
- Set up a forward planning / cross promotion unit
- Check all workflows for maximum efficiency
- Reassess all roles and responsibilities
- Eliminate any duplication of effort
- Monitor and assess every three months
- Continually adjust in terms of changing audience behaviour and new technology.
Text: David Brewer, assisting with a Fojo Media Institute and MRDI Bangladesh five-year project designed to build the capacity of the country’s print and broadcast media.
Images: Media Helping Media, released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0