Platforms: Running a multi-media newsroom

(Russian news agency’s RIA Novosti integrated and converged multimedia newsroom)

How many folks out there really have the experience needed to run an online-first news organization? Or how about a true multi-media organization?

The answer: Not many.

But that shouldn’t be a reason to hesitate in making the leap.

Last week I had the opportunity to talk to a college media organization that was trying to figure out how to become an integrated multi-media newsroom.

I won’t say who, since it wasn’t necessarily a public discussion. But their challenge isn’t unusual. They have some great facilities, a strong journalism school, but the various platforms tend to operate independently. They share a central Web site where their stories and videos are posted, but there is no one group dedicated to running the site.

The question on the table for discussion was this: How can this affiliation of groups become an online first newsroom?

We ran through several scenarios, but they were each going to involve years of trying to persuade various corners of the department to shift their thinking. One of the big stumbling blocks internally, though, was a feeling that no one was really qualified to run such an organization. It’s a kind of chicken and egg problem.

My response is that there are few such people in the world who have that experience, and probably not at the student media level. But that shouldn’t be reason to hesitate. Instead, I said the groups needed to make the commitment to becoming a single, integrated news organization and place a single executive student editor in charge of all platforms. Yes, that person will never have run such a group, but that doesn’t matter.

What was needed was someone who is a strong leader, who is respected by other students, and who has core journalism values. They need to be curious, intelligent and experimental. Mistakes will absolutely be made. What’s important is to have a leader who is not afraid to make them and to learn from them, and can encourage those around him or her to try new things and learn as an organization.

That’s easier said than done. But the main point is that I think it’s less important for that new leader to have all the practical skills needed to produce in each platform. Or to have a wealth of experience running such an organization.

I thought of this again this morning when I saw Juan Giner had written about an ad the BBC is running looking for someone to run it’s multi-media newsroom:

Who has great experience in this kind of job? Well, this is the problem.

The BBC has thousands of excellent mono-media journalists.

And they are looking for a multimedia boss…

What do you think? What skills does someone running a mult-media or online first newsroom need to succeed? How can college media successfully make the transition?

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