(Originally posted on Dec. 21, 2010)
About a month ago, Michele McLellan of the Knight Digital Media Center wrote about three signs your newsroom isn’t ready to cross the digital divide. A great many new-media and journalism-innovation types heaped praise on it. I wanted to post something here about it but struggled to figure out what to say. Thankfully, there is now a followup that helps: a Q and A with John Robinson, the editor of the News & Record in Greensboro, about changes that Michele’s original post prompted him to make. The Greensboro paper’s weekday circulation is under 65,000, so reading about changes in that newsroom is not at all like reading about structural changes in a place like Orlando, Atlanta or Dallas.
Read the whole thing, but here’s what seems to me the biggest change: Starting Jan. 1, the News & Record’s digital editor essentially becomes the No. 2 editor in the room, answering to John and carrying “the authority to direct anyone in news to do what is needed digitally. … He also is charged with knowing what the reporters are working on and making sure that they file online reports when we need them to versus when they get to it.”
In his own blog post about why he decided to make the changes, John wrote that when he read McLellan’s post, “I realized that our newsroom isn’t ready. That embarrassed me and inspired me.”
On a related note, not quite three weeks ago the new CEO of the Journal Register Co. made a much-discussed presentation about efforts to get that company transformed to a digital-first news operation, and his remarks share a key element with what John is trying: If you truly want to make a change like that, the people in charge have to be primarily digital, not rooted in the traditional platform.