Initial thoughts on newsroom design

We’re just shifting from getting organized to launching our research. As part of that effort, I had two interesting interviews this week that reminded me of the impact we could have with this project.

The first interview on Wednesday was with Larry Moneta, Duke’s vice president of student affairs, and one of the main players on the construction of the new Central Campus. We talked about the genesis of the Central Campus project and why the administration wants to put a media center there.

Putting aside the details of what that center would be, Monetta noted that “this is an optimal time to think big.”

The other person I interviewed was Felipe Lamus, a consultant with Innovation, an international firm that works on newspaper and newsroom design. Lamus, who lives in Chapel Hill, said the firm has worked primarily in Europe and Latin America, where newspapers have been more daring in both the look of their print products and reorganization of their newsrooms.

One interesting nugget was that folks never come to Innovation asking to have their newsroom overhauled. Instead, they come because they want to redesign the paper. But the folks at Innovation consider that “cosmetic.” Lamus said if people really want to change their newspaper, they have to start by changing their newsrooms:

“To improve the quality of the newspaper, you have to improve the quality of the newsroom design…When we have a big project to redesign a newspaper, we not only want to change the color and format of the newspaper, but change the way journalists work and the way they produce in that space….If you go to other industries, they incorporated these ideas a long time ago. It’s incredible how the journalism industry has been so late to incorporate those changes in the work environment.”

I’ll be posting full write-ups from these interviews next week and podcasts from both as well.

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