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How do you overcome newsroom culture blockers? Answers at the International Newsroom Summit

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How do you overcome newsroom culture blockers? Answers at the International Newsroom Summit

Amsterdam based Professor of Journalism and media studies, Mark Deuze kicked off the session as moderator, saying ”Editors need to ask how do journalists ‘feel’ about working in this environment if they want to change the culture?.”

Journalism is now an insecure career - short term contracts and the associated high staff turn over make culture change even harder, Deuze says.

Bardazzi credits the physical restructure of their newsroom in combination with a philosophical shift to ‘open journalism’ with the successful transformation of La Stampa’s newsroom culture “Over the last few years we have set a goal to set our information free. This helped overcome long-standing resistance."

Earlier this year, La Stampa began hiring ‘outsiders’ from digital media groups on short term contracts to manage social media. “Bringing outside digital gurus into the newsroom to work is a positive contamination that is challenging culture blocking.”

Digital media early adopter, Trinity Mirror’s Alison Gow told the Summit that “Newsroom blockers have to be worked around - or through - they’re the same the world over.”

She highlighted the history of digital resistance in newsrooms waged by change-blockers “Digital newsroom people in 2008 were trying to alert their bosses & saying scary things like listen, collaborate”.

And she argues that social media remains an essential conduit to cultural change “Beating the blockers is essential. You need an audience-first newsroom. Social media is your judge & jury”.

She also reminded editors that they need to lead change from an informed and practice-active position with a focus on tangible outcomes. “Positive results win hearts and minds better than strategy explanations. If people understand, they’ll move with you.”

Shaping the modern journalist as a part of newsroom change management must involve comprehensive training to develop competencies across media - new and old, according to Lisa MacLeod, Head of Operations at

She offered advice on the type of training to provide newsroom staff and how to best deliver it.

She nominated ‘decoding coding’ as essential for journalists. She also noted its popularity: “Our newsroom courses on coding are booked out”, she said, “It [has let staff] take journalism and turn it into something functional on the web that is easy to use”.

MacLeod told the Summit the central reason change can be so difficult to implement and manage in newsrooms was fear: “They are scared, afraid of technology and people who seem to know more than they do.”

But she said engaging staff at the Financial Times in interdepartmental creative collaboration had “led to more ideas than we could implement in 100 years”.

She also spoke of changing the culture of the newsroom with initiatives like a monthly ‘digital champion’ with cash prize, to reward and encourage digital innovation amongst journalists.

Didier Hamann, General Manager of Belgium’s leading daily francophone paper, Le Soir, spoke on the same panel about his own newsroom's approach to changing culture – the youth-oriented #25 initiative, including dedicated youth-focused and written blog.

“We hired a dozen young journalists to help invigorate the newsroom,” Hamann told the conference, as part of a strategy to engage an ageing pool of journalists and with that, an ageing readership.

“We should not talk to the youth, we should talk with them in order to engage them,” he said, noting the intangible benefits within the newsroom: “the old journalists are interested in new topics [it’s] transformed our working atmosphere.”

Since the success of #25, Le Soir has launched a further two new sites to link with their youth-focus - one dedicated to high-tech news and the other to sustainability.

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Jessica Sparks


2014-10-13 17:18

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The World Editors Forum is the organisation within the World Association of Newspapers devoted to newspaper editors worldwide. The Editors Weblog (, launched in January 2004, is a WEF initiative designed to facilitate the diffusion of information relevant to newspapers and their editors.

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