Designing the next phase for newsroom technologists
Session facilitator(s): Tyler Fisher, Brittany Mayes
Day & Time: Friday, 10-11:15am
TYLER: Hi! All right.
BRITTANY: Okay. So we’re kind of tight in here. So if there’s an open seat, can you raise your hand? Okay. Great! So there’s some open seats still. Find a spot. Welcome in. I think we’re gonna get started! Never had to use the mic.
TYLER: All right! Welcome, everybody. If you’re here for designing the next phase for newsroom technologists, you are in the right place!
BRITTANY: Overwhelmed. There’s a couple of seats at this front table in you want to come up too.
TYLER: I’m Tyler Fisher. I work currently on a project called News Catalyst out of Temple University. I’ll tell you more about it some other time.
BRITTANY: Hi. I’m Brittany Mayes. I work at the Washington Post as a graphics reporter.
TYLER: So we’re here to design the future together. And what we mean by that is… I think if you just take a look at the program at SRCCON, if you’ve been to SRCCONs before, you’ll notice that there’s a lot more conversation now about product and about more holistic approaches to the problems of journalism. You know, I think – this community was very centered around data journalism and graphics and visuals. And that’s all wonderful and great and something that I still do a lot of. But my purview has certainly expanded. I’ve had to grow more skills. I’ve had to learn more about product thinking, learn more about analytics, learn more about the business part of journalism. And I think the community has evolved that way too.
So we pitched this session as an opportunity to talk about what the community needs to grow in accordance with these new skills that we need to develop together. So that’s what we’re here to do. A quick note. This section is being captioned live. A couple notes about that. When speaking to the group, please identify yourself. If you don’t want to be identified, that’s also fine. If you want something to be completely off the record, just say off the record, and that will no longer be in the caption feed. Okay. So we’re all here to help journalism get better, right? That’s what this community is about. And so as we think about where we want this community to go, it’s in service of this. Right? And so part of our session pitch – we came up with sort of four, like, hypotheses of what will make journalism better and how newsroom technologists fit into that. And these are just sort of starting points for points of discussion.
BRITTANY: Okay. So… We’re gonna go into these with more depth. But for a quick overview, one, newsroom technologists must have real power in their organizations. Experimentation and product development must be central to how an organization operates. News orgs must represent and radically be inclusive of their communities. And cultivating positive culture and interpersonal relationships is key to developing sustainable newsrooms. So let’s break those down. Oh, just kidding. We’re gonna talk about where we are now first. Which is… Breaking those down.
TYLER: Yeah. So we just want to set the stage for, like, where we see the industry is right now. And we want to hear from you at this point as well. So we’ll get into that. My philosophy on this, anyway, and I put this on here… Is: This is a quote by William Gibson. He’s an author. He said: The future is already here. It’s just not very evenly distributed. So each of those four things, we’re gonna be able to point to examples where we think places are already doing this. And we’ll hear from you what your challenges are in reaching those, and places where you’ve succeeded in some of these. Oh, right.
BRITTANY: So the framework for thinking about this, that we want you to think about, as we’re talking through the four points, is: Where have you seen these succeed? Like Tyler said, we’re gonna give you some examples of where we’ve seen it succeed. What are wrong with the goals? We came up with these, but there are many more, and we’ll get into that later. Are these feasible in the next 5, 10, 15 years? And what roadblocks do you see in achieving them? We’ll keep this section pretty tight, so we’re not gonna have time to address all four, for each of the points that we’re gonna make, but if you have a thought, please raise your hand and we’ll let you take the floor. So one: Newsroom technologists must have real power in their organizations.
So we see this in a few places. Here’s some examples which we thought of. So 538. We have some people at the top of the food chain, which is really exciting. Sarah Frostingson is the politics editor, Chris Grosoff is the deputy director? I don’t know. Titles don’t matter. But he’s at the top. Which is great. We have Jeremy Bowers at the top of the editorial engineering chain at Reveal, Matt Thompson, and then the top of the Pro Publica chain of importance.
TYLER: They’re important!
BRITTANY: This is really exciting and we need more people at the top, is essentially what we’re saying. More people who think like we do. Who want to push technology forward. And who started thinking about visuals, graphics, code data first, and have that influence to spread to the rest of the newsroom. So if anybody has people they want to add… Things they want to talk about in that… Anyone?
TYLER: Struggles you’ve had in trying to change more of your news organizations than just your little coding world. I’m sure people have experienced challenges. How many people can say in their news organizations – just show of hands – there’s somebody who you identify as, like, a newsroom technologist who manages something beyond a newsroom technologist? That’s a good show of hands.
BRITTANY: Could be worse.
TYLER: How many people have experienced roadblocks in trying to get there? Anybody want to talk about what some of those were?
AUDIENCE: Some of it… I’m Tony Alkins, director of innovation for Gatehouse. I think when you start getting at the director level and higher, it’s the silos that your VPs and C-suite are in. They’re strictly focused on revenue, strictly focused on consumer, strictly focused on advertising, and they have lofty goals to reach. So as the technologists come up, it’s like… I’m at director level and I’m just now two years into this. Being able to directly talk to the C-suites and the VPs and go: What are your KPIs? What are your goals? And how do we align those across the organization as a whole? Which is hard, when you have 11,000 people in your organization. So just traditional silos are still one of the biggest problems we face.
BRITTANY: Anyone else want to make another quick comment? Yeah? Getting in my exercise for today.
AUDIENCE: As you start thinking about this and looking at examples, I would be really interested in local examples. Or small newsroom examples. Right here we have kind of large national examples.
BRITTANY: Yeah. And we saw this break down with local versus national. Also people of color in elevated positions. Women. So again, we still have a lot of progress we need to make. But here’s some that we thought of.
AUDIENCE: Hi. This is Stacy no affiliation. I have a question for the room. How many of you who identify as technologists want to or have considered managing either people or teams or processes? Cool. That is more than when I asked this question last year. And I think that’s one of the biggest challenges we as a group have, which is that we are obsessed with being individual contributors and think of businesses as evil, and find it harder, especially in situations where the path in newsrooms to get promoted involves managing people to break into that. So we have a lot of work to do as individuals, and as people who are getting to the director level, to design paths that both reward strong individual contributors, that allow them to be more senior, and to train up kind of a generation of people here who are interested in managing beyond the project or the product that they’re currently assigned to. And I don’t think we’re doing either of those particularly well.
BRITTANY: Definitely agree. Let’s move on.
TYLER: Yeah. Each – every single one of these points could be a session in its own. And that’s the flaw of the session. But we’re gonna keep moving pretty quickly here. So… Point two that we wanted to emphasize: Experimentation and product development must be central to how a news organization operates. What I mean by that is we sort of all know that the business model of traditional… I’ll say print. Broadcast is another world. That I don’t have so much experience in. But sort of print-centric journalism… That advertising model has broken down. We all know that. And so for us to move forward, we have to think about: What is our product now? And redesigning that whole system requires a news organization-wide effort. Vox Media of course is a digital-only outlet, but they took something that they built themselves, Chorus, their CMS, and invested in it so much, they made it so powerful, that they’re able to sell it to other newsrooms. And that helped the Chicago Sun-Times. They bought into Chorus and now they’re able to more rapidly approach digital transformation and other digital properties. They’ve been able to buy in and launch quickly.
Sorry. That was the only example I had.
BRITTANY: Anybody have comments about this?
TYLER: Things maybe to think about here… Like, how… What are the struggles you’ve seen in trying to rethink the product of your newsroom? Uh-oh.
BRITTANY: Time to take any comments?
AUDIENCE: Hi. I’m Ben from Aclache. And I feel like one of the… I’m gonna struggle to articulate this. We have innovation as an OKR and it’s hard to get it to filter down to the KPIs. Especially in newsrooms. So one of the things I do is provide kits and tutorials on new equipment to the newsrooms. But getting people to take the time away from their stories, to put that into practice, even though I’ve seen – if they do it once, they’ll produce something okay. If they do it twice, it’s decent. By the third time they use one of our kits, they know how to produce in a new medium and they’re doing it well. But making the time for them to do that in the newsroom is a real challenge.
BRITTANY: Okay. Let’s take one more.
AUDIENCE: Hi. I’m Tim. I’m a developer at Conde Nast, and their CMS. We have a lot of experimentation that we do for our frontend sites, for our mini-properties. And one of the primary things that we’ve sort of seen as a problem is entrenchment in large monolithic technology systems, and how the fact that – Chorus is put as an example, that it’s a large monolithic CMS, as well as ours is. And there’s problems with getting – making something simple that is accessible to newsrooms in a lightweight manner that is both ethical for the journalist to build in and ethical for the technologist to make new experimental things in. So there’s a fundamental problem with how we build, I feel, that ties directly to us building big rather than building smart and small.
TYLER: That’s a really good point.
BRITTANY: All right. Let’s move on.
TYLER: Yeah. Number three. News organizations must represent and be radically inclusive of their communities. I think we all know that our newsrooms tend not to look like the audiences we serve. And we also don’t often do a great job of listening to our audiences. And what their needs are. I want to point to one news organization, City Bureau, in Chicago, a small outlet, that operates mostly on the South Side of Chicago. And they do something called… I think they’re actually on hiatus on this part of it right now, but they did something called the public newsroom. Every Thursday night, they turn the newsroom into an open space where journalists and public can gather to discuss local issues, share resources, and knowledge and learn to report and investigate stories. I think that’s a powerful framing, in and of itself. And if you just take a look at – I just pulled the five most recent headlines on City Bureau, and you can see how that framing changes the way they write their headlines and stories. What you can do to prevent a census undercount in Illinois. There’s still no accountability for police in public schools. Here’s how you can weigh in. Welcome to our user guide to local government. Your power in city government. They’re is interesting the audience in the storytelling. And I think that’s just a really powerful framing.
But we want to hear from you about this particular hypothesis, about where journalism needs to go, and specifically how can we as news technologists help make this happen. Oh, back there.
AUDIENCE: I feel as if we should be able to… I don’t know. As part of a goal or metric for reporters to count the diversity of our sources or measure them. Is there a way we could automatically track like… Hey, your story only cites men or your story doesn’t cite a particular type of expert. Can we track that in a way that can make it accessible for reporters and editors?
BRITTANY: Yeah. NPR does that. They have source of the week. Yeah. It’s a whole team. Where they give a diverse source each week, that’s a little higher up. But I haven’t been there, so I can’t tell you a lot.
AUDIENCE: One of the things… Tying this back to the subject of the session and thinking about the creation of new technologists related to Stacy’s point earlier. We need these organizations to represent and be radically inclusive, and in part, I think that means that on our teams, thinking as technologists, the people we think about sponsoring and promoting, we need to make sure we’re giving those resources to people who are going to help us be inclusive of those communities. It’s really, really important for us to think about our promotional practices and where we put our energy. Because the people that we send up from these teams can’t just be technologists. They also have to be people who embody these values.
AUDIENCE: Good point. Hiring is a huge part of this as well. Hannah – or sorry, Tiff wrote about… Yes. About inclusive hiring practices. But I think… Just getting a diverse mix of people on your team will help make all of our product and our coverage more inclusive.
AUDIENCE: I think another thing internally is to question the assumptions within the newsroom about the audience. You know, we’ve all probably had interactions with one-off… Like, readers, listeners, et cetera. That maybe color or taint how we perceive our audience. But using the five Ys… Why do you feel this way about your audience? And this is a mind shift internally that is longer, harder, maybe doesn’t have as much of a hard metric to it, but if internally, a news organization doesn’t really believe that they need to be radically inclusive, and understand what are the assumptions that you’re currently making and how do you get to that place… You’re not gonna get there.
BRITTANY: Yeah. And our last point, which kind of came up in this already… Speaking about hiring… Is: Hiring is great, but you also need to retain. And so cultivating positive culture and interpersonal relationships is key to developing sustainable newsrooms. This is so important as to how your work place culture is. It does so much for keeping the diverse voices that you’re actually recruiting or hope to recruit. It can open better lines of communication, whether that’s peer-to-peer or a person to their editor or even higher up. It can open better collaboration opportunities. A lot of times, pitches or ideas come from just talking to someone that you pass in the hallway. If you don’t have a culture of having that open space of communication, then those pitches don’t happen. Stronger storytelling. It’s easier to innovate and be experimental within the projects that we tell if you feel comfortable about speaking about how to do a weird, quirky, different idea. High retention rates, like I mentioned. And just like an overall culture of respect and understanding. That’s super important to doing the work that we do on really tough days. Or great days, and all the days in between. So with that… Does anybody have comments on that?
AUDIENCE: So I’ve worked on teams that really did have a strong, positive culture. And strong relationships within the teams. And I have seen the ways that that can kind of… By being an example on a small-scale, that can sort of move throughout a newsroom, and other teams tend to adopt those practices. But I also have encountered being on a team with a really strong positive culture that wasn’t reflected anywhere kind of upwards. And I find that there can sometimes be a lot of resistance to changing sort of the practices of leadership and the way that we interact with each other professionally at kind of higher levels of management. And so I would love to know if anyone has any thoughts on bringing those good vibes and good culture upwards. And how to actually effect that change, organization-wide.
AUDIENCE: This is kind of a specific point, but I think a good way to foster a good culture in your organization is to make sure you’re not fostering practices that hit against each other. That could be that you’re focusing too much on page views as a metric and people are comparing themselves to each other, could be a salary problem, usually it comes from the leadership down, but as newsroom technologists and as people who might be lower than upper management, I think we can try to recognize when those competitive moments are happening, and try to have honest conversations with each other about why they’re happening, and why we don’t need to pit ourselves against each other. That we’re all on the same team, even if the underlying structures aren’t necessarily supporting that.
AUDIENCE: Just to add to that, about the competitiveness… I work with a bunch of different newsrooms, and one thing we noticed was: A lot of them were using the crowd panel, and they’re showing all the social media stats, and it becomes a pitting against each other. And we realized it was driving negativity. It wasn’t inspiring people to do better. It was making them upset that they weren’t performing. So we started to change the behavior a bit to focus on changing how they display the information, take it off a newsroom dashboard, and actually share in meetings. Have conversations about who did well and highlighting people – you have a news director that would highlight people that did particular stories really well. And how they did on social. Not necessarily the most engagements or the most video views or whatever, but focus on the substance of it.
So focusing more on the quality of it, to kind of help change the behavior. Inspire people to do better, versus just pitting them against each other.
AUDIENCE: I think this particular point is also more dependent on wider industry trends. In the sense that… Because the industry is, for the last… Maybe more than a decade… Hurting financially, it has kind of made our industry more prone to having exploitative practices built in, within our organizations. So, for example, I’m thinking about… Organizations having two tiers of employees. One full-time and the other “fellows”, or other temporaries. Like temp workers.
And now these people work just as hard. Just as much. Sometimes even more so. Because they are trying to get into a full-time role. And that tiering of employees hurts culture at a much deeper level, because it kind of shows how upper management thinks about employees in a more general sense. And that could have a very insidious sort of effect on the wider culture. So I wonder how newsroom technologists could help with that. I don’t even know if we can. But yeah.
BRITTANY: This is a great discussion.
TYLER: I think we can go to 10:30. We’ve got a couple more minutes.
BRITTANY: Two more.
AUDIENCE: Hi. This is Hannah from Pro Publica. I think when it comes to helping propagate a healthy team culture that exists on a single team, it might be helpful to not think so much first about working up, but maybe working laterally. Similar to how you as an individual might have a goal and then find allies in the newsroom, regardless of team, to help support that goal and help to get there, I think the managers of tech teams working really functionally and positively with managers on non-tech teams could sort of build that zeitgeist, and help this kind of groundswell of positive culture that’s good for technologists and everyone else. Rather than just targeting the person in charge and trying to change that one person’s mind.
AUDIENCE: I think when you think about culture as a whole, you have to think about how an organization responds. What are the internal pressures, versus external, that you can leverage. So not everything has to be within internal. So for example, many years ago, when Emily Bell wrote an article basically about Vox and BuzzFeed, about the diversity issue, they responded immediately. Think about how you leverage open news and other external forces as models of behavior that you can sort of hold your own internal company accountable. And especially with a lot of the digital non-profits, think about: Who are the people funding them? And how would that look, if they don’t play nice or they don’t value technology or they don’t value diversity?
Getting money is hard. So think about sort of how you apply both internal and external pressure, and don’t just rely on the internal mechanics, but also point out sort of like… Hey, look at these consequences of what happened when that behavior does happen in other orgs.
BRITTANY: Okay. We have one more and then we’ve got to move on.
AUDIENCE: Thanks for letting me squeeze this in. I used to be in StoryCorps, and I can’t understate the importance of change management. All of us using technology in our work. I worked on the technology side, alongside journalists, and we tend to think as technologists about the user, the audience, the person experiencing the technology, but we don’t think about the impact on internal processes and people’s day-to-day. So when we talk about inclusion, we should also think about early and late adopters on our own team and that we need to bring these people along, keep them on the bus with us.
TYLER: All right. Again, all of those points could have their own session. So… Sorry to stifle such good discussion. Really, we wanted to sort of get your brain moving, and thinking broader. So now what we’re gonna do… We’re gonna do a small group exercise. So asking the question: How can newsroom technologists help journalism succeed? We want you to write down some goals you have to get us there. So we want you to… So there’s some printer paper.
BRITTANY: Yeah. Let me know if you don’t have enough paper on your table.
TYLER: We have plenty more paper if you need it.
TYLER: And you’re gonna…
BRITTANY: Fold it into thirds. This is literally the least fun thing, but sorry. Fold it into thirds and then label each column individual, organizational, and industry goals. Do we have enough paper? Also there’s other pens and stuff.
AUDIENCE: As a group?
BRITTANY: We’re gonna do both. You’re gonna start individually. We’re gonna give you five or so minutes to just write all of your thoughts down on paper. We need more paper. To write all of your thoughts down on paper. And then you’ll have ten minutes to talk through it with your group.
Everybody should have their own piece of paper, which you’ll fold into threes. We need more paper. Okay. We’re coming around with paper. Pens. Yes. Does everybody have a piece of paper? Everybody has a piece of paper. Does everybody have a pen? Great.
TYLER: Need a pen?
BRITTANY: Okay. So everybody at your table should have a sheet. You’re gonna fold it in thirds. Label with those three categories. And then you’re gonna have probably four minutes at this point. A few minutes to just think about this individually, and then we’ll open it up for you all to talk as a group. Does that make sense? All right. Let’s go.
One more minute on your own.
Okay. So the next thing I want you to do is: At your tables, everybody go around and share what you wrote, and see where that discussion takes you. Talk about commonalities, common goals that you have, and after you do that, we’ll give you ten minutes to talk as a small group, we’ll designate one person to share back and talk about how the discussions went.
BRITTANY: And we want you to focus on the goals. We’ll talk more about how to achieve them, but this is all about the goals you have for these three categories. Go!
You’re gonna have about two more minutes to discuss as a group. And then we’ll report back.
All right. We’re gonna start wrapping up. So get in your final thoughts.
All right. I hope your discussions were good. Now we’re gonna ask you to keep it tight, but we’re gonna ask for anything that you want to report back to the group, goalswise. It could be any of the three categories.
TYLER: Anybody want to go first?
BRITTANY: Oh, that was a race. I don’t know. Tight. Photo finish.
AUDIENCE: We’ll both talk at the same time.
Kind of more of an observation. As I shared my individual goals, Cece, who is a big shot, was like… Wow. This makes me feel like such a manager. Because mine were extremely me-focused, and a lot of her individual goals have to do with the health of an organization or how organizations work. And I just think that’s an interesting, like, comparison. Those are both individual types of goals.
AUDIENCE: It just came up around the table that we wanted to know what a technologist was.
We don’t necessarily have to get off track on that, but…
TYLER: That’s a really good question.
AUDIENCE: There should be a session on it.
BRITTANY: That’s a different session.
TYLER: Does anybody else have an answer to that?
AUDIENCE: Well, I mean…
BRITTANY: I actually do have thoughts.
AUDIENCE: I don’t have an answer. I’m the director of Nightlab at Northwestern, and one of the reasons I pause at that term is because the lab was created as a technology center, science and and so on, but we’re finding that as an inappropriate jacket to wear, and really pushing towards more like product thinking, which is all in the air here. There’s not a simple word for it. But I feel like putting technology first has turned out not in our interests. For lots of reasons. And so finding a way around it, not necessarily side tracking the session to do it, would be good for us.
AUDIENCE: I don’t know exactly what the definition of a technologist is either, but I think one criterion for it is someone who isn’t just concerned about feasibility and putting technology first, but is also very concerned about culture and the downstream effects of that, and how the relationship between culture and technology – how one is encoded into the other.
BRITTANY: Do we have more goals we want to share? Right in the middle.
AUDIENCE: Just something that’s based off a very recent personal experience of mine, one of the organizational goals that I wrote down, that I think gets into sort of the diversity of perspectives thing, but also thinking about technologists, as one of those perspectives, right? One of the things I wrote down was promoting and hiring people into top management who understand and have worked with technology, so they know how it can be used to solve problems. And it’s just very clear to me when those people are in the room and not. When the solutions come out. They’re not necessarily bad solutions. They’re just… They don’t include what all the options really could be.
AUDIENCE: A lot of our conversations were kind of centered around how people feel about our jobs, or how other technologists feel about their own jobs and how that’s communicated across the newsroom, and one of the things I mentioned is that… I get a lot of respect in my organization for being a technologist, but I think the other people in my team feel a little powerless when there’s a technical problem and they don’t know how to handle it. So finding ways to help people feel like we are actually collaborating on a task, even if they don’t necessarily know all the details of completing that task, would be a good way of helping people work together.
AUDIENCE: Just a quick addition to what Cece just said, which is… I’ve spent most of my career working for people who usually respond or react to something that me or my team does as “magic”.
AUDIENCE: Exactly. I’ve been called worse! But my goal has always been to try to change that reaction. They don’t have to understand every line of code that we write or every system that we create, but to make it less magical, to have a little bit more of an understanding of what goes into it, this is a discipline. This is a craft. Just like any other part of the industry. So enhancing that understanding has gone a long way, but there’s still a long way to go.
AUDIENCE: Kind of piggybacking off of that, one of the things that came up at our table is trying to – within an organization – convince people to come to you with a problem and sit in the problem space, as opposed to the solution. So I think a lot of us have experienced a senior leadership person coming in and saying: You’re doing X, Y, and Z. And you say: This is not technically possible or is going to be really expensive. What are you actually trying to do? And pushing back on that can make staff very uncomfortable, or you wind up with solutions that don’t actually work.
AUDIENCE: Hi. I have an industry goal. So I’ve stopped going to all the conferences, because I hate panels. But I think that one of the reasons I keep coming back to SRCCON is because every time I come to SRCCON, I see Brown and Black people that I don’t know. Which is extremely unusual in the spaces that I work in. And I look around this room, and I’m like… Wow. We’re not doing particularly well. And we’re SRCCON. And we’re one of the best places. And I think individually, we need to be asking the questions like: Who is not here? And why are they not here? And how are we helping them get there? Because I think we can talk a good game, and many of us do, about who we’re hiring and who we’re promoting, but we are not showing up particularly well in terms of who we are actively advocating for and bringing in. And this isn’t something – I think where I get really frustrated, because I am a manager and a senior person, where people are like – only managers can do that. No. Literally everybody has the ability to help somebody else show up, and I think that I would love for an industry goal, at this conference next year, there’s twice the number of people that I don’t recognize.
TYLER: One more. And we’ll move on to our last exercise.
AUDIENCE: A couple of industry goals are to ensure that people entering the technology field see news and journalism as somewhere they can go. Because it’s very obvious to go work for Google or Amazon or Facebook or to work in finance or for a startup, but if you talk to folks graduating from a Boot Camp or a computer science program, they’re very unlikely to consider a newsroom career. So that’s something the industry should do. And the second thing is that there’s a lot of stuff we do that’s the same from organization to organization, but we build our own version of it. Because we don’t know that we can use an Open Source tool or collaborate with other people who we might think are competing in some way. And we’ve had great success with building on top of stuff, and most recently, we can live blog, because we didn’t start from scratch.
BRITTANY: Those were all really great. Thanks for sharing, everyone. And now we are gonna move on to the last part. Similar time frame. Do we want them to do it individually first?
TYLER: Yeah, sure.
TYLER: So take one of your goals that you wrote down. It can be your goal or someone else’s goal or whatever. And then you can flip your paper and do the same thing. But think about strategies. What can we do now as individuals?
BRITTANY: We have more paper if you need some.
TYLER: You wrote all over your paper? Also raise your hand if you need more paper. So what are strategies you can use as an individual? What can your organizations do to support you? What can the industry do to support you? In achieving this goal? Does that make sense? Any questions? Great. So we’re gonna do this the same way.
BRITTANY: Individual first for five minutes and then we’ll open it up for you all to talk in small group discussion.
TYLER: Same format we just did. First individually, then as a group. Everybody can pick their own goal.
BRITTANY: It would be helpful for group discussion, but you can truly choose your own goal. Is everybody clear on what we’re asking?
TYLER: What are your strategies for achieving the goal? Pick one.
BRITTANY: So we’ll give you a few minutes individually to think about this, and then open it up to group discussion.
Okay. So one more time. We’re asking you to pick one goal and things you can do at each level to achieve that goal. Does that make sense? Cool. Great.
If you’re not already, start discussing in small groups what your goal was that you picked and what your strategy was for accomplishing it.
TYLER: We’re gonna talk for a couple more minutes and then we’re gonna bring it back.
BRITTANY: Start getting in your last thoughts. All right. Are we ready to report back to the group? Maybe getting there? Sorry. We have such little time, but you have great ideas. So we want to be able to share. Does anyone want to start? Any revelations you had? Any goals in how you would break it down to each of the categories? Anything to share? Okay. Yes. Thank you.
AUDIENCE: So one of the things that came up – and it was from the group discussion – was this idea of a morale index. You know? So within an industry, we should report back for our organizations how people within organizations are feeling about working at that organization. And that should feed up, on an industry level, as a report to kind of… And that should become sort of like a metric that is just as important as page views. Which is terrible. But yeah. Thinking about morale index. And apparently Facebook does this already. Where they ask people how they feel about working at Facebook. Should be terrible.
AUDIENCE: So my individual/organization goal was demystifying my job, which is audience engagement. So we already have these kind of monthly learning sessions that a reporter or a visual journalist will sign up to do and teach someone. So I want to do one that’s like… Here’s what I do! Asking people… Here’s what I do. Here’s what I actually do. What do you want from me to help get your stories out and engage our audiences? And in turn, what I want from reporters and editors to help do my job better. I think just laying everything out on the table and having everyone kind of talk together would really help have some transparency and also just goals for me to work on and goals for our reporters and editors too.
BRITTANY: Other people? Especially if you haven’t talked. Share with the group.
AUDIENCE: With that introduction, I’ll make it quick. This came up – not just for me. I’m sharing. Considering the total cost of ownership for innovation. Because there’s a lot of microlevel innovation that’s increasing technical debt in the industry, and in an industry that’s hurting financially, we are saddling our organizations with more technical debt for our successors. So designing simple systems and thinking about parsimonious, simple solutions before more complex ones.
AUDIENCE: Hi. My name is Jeremy. And I work for Worbis BRB, so I’m not in journalism, per se, but we build tools for journalists. So one of the goals I came away with was sharing more of how newsrooms and journalists are building these digital experiences. We can sit here talking about incorporating technology and that kind of thing, but what does it actually look like as a finished product? What are cool things folks are doing right now, and showcases those examples and the tools behind those experiences? You don’t have to start from scratch. There’s Open Source tools available, and making it more accessible and easier than hiring ten developers and putting them to work for six months. Doesn’t have to be this big drawn out process. There are already a lot of starting points that can help you along the way. So I think highlights those experiences is a goal of mine that I hope we’ll work towards.
TYLER: A goal and some strategies.
AUDIENCE: We talked about a sandbox, and then as a next step, to advocate for them to become templates, but then as a step past that, to continue to be a manager for those templates. Don’t just have the newsroom run with them and have them keep being the shiny toy. Keep reinforcing – this is why you should use this. This is why it was successful for readers. Don’t let things get worn out really quickly.
BRITTANY: They’re all on that side of the room.
AUDIENCE: I think one of my goals will be around making newsrooms more inclusive. So as a community editor, I think what I’d like to do is make our newsroom and other newsrooms more aware of their audience. I think that if we were more aware of every day that 70% of our readers were White, I think we’d work a lot harder, and we should have that up, right next to our page views.
BRITTANY: You have a couple more minutes. Anyone want to do a final thought?
AUDIENCE: This is more of an industry goal. I’d like to see more folks from Open Source be able to rise up to be in the top five position in their news org. And as an organization in news, how do we create a pathway for folks to achieve that. Not necessarily being the top technologist, but being the top journalist in your organization. So I think Newsnerd and NewsWonk is really cute, but it’s a way that we box ourselves into these frameworks. We all chose journalism for a reason. We really want to code. There’s a million other jobs we can be doing. Except the way we express our stories through codes and visualization. So how do we have people dream bigger and have people think of themselves as… Yes, you could be the next Marty Barron, the next Anderson Cooper. There’s nothing wrong with being that. How can we create that path forward?
TYLER: Anybody have any ideas?
BRITTANY: We would like to know.
AUDIENCE: I think one of the things that we run into is, as technologists, we take a lot of pride in our technical skills and using those on a regular basis in our job. And I think there’s a perception – and maybe a reality – that if you get into a higher level position, you’re going to be doing less of that technical work on a daily basis, and maybe you’ll feel like you’re losing something. And we need to get rid of that idea.
TYLER: One more thought.
AUDIENCE: I think regarding moving up through the ranks as a technologist or whatever you want to call yourselves, I think one of the things that really matters is when you take a really strong interest in the journalism itself, and understand the journalism itself, and read what you guys are doing. That seems to matter most to the other folks in the room, and they say… Whoa. I didn’t know you were actually a journalist.
BRITTANY: Thank you, everyone, for coming. We hope you got some goals and some things that you can take away, and use in your own newsroom, to make journalism better.