iPhone and MacBook for every journalist, three-shifts schedule, and almost unstoppable broadcast. This is how Danish and Ukrainian teams of media experts see the work of the newsroom at First Channel. For almost three weeks, they have been developing a plan for the future newsroom; and MYMEDIA already knows all the details and parts.
NTU is the channel with the largest coverage in Ukraine that involves 93% of the country. At the same time, its audience is ridiculously small; it is only 0.84%. There are no statistics for the rest of 24 regional state channels because no one has seriously measured it.
At the present moment, the formation of a public broadcaster is financed from the state budget, but in four years, its main source of income should become an annual subscription the audience will pay for. But here's the problem: this financing scheme is impossible if the channel will be watched by less than 1% of the audience.
The main requirement for increasing the audience is high-quality news content; and a way to get it is through reforming NTKU’s newsroom and teaching the journalists to work according to the job principles of the best foreign TV-channels.
The approach to the news: before and after
"Now, TV- and radio journalists do not cooperate; so both types call the same person to ask the same question for a material on their platforms. However, this is a job one person can do. Channel’s journalists will have to change; they will have to learn to work together and share content instead of hiding it from each other," says Morten Brandstrup, Chief Technology Officer of the Danish public broadcaster TV2. This way, the reader, viewer or listener will be able to learn the story regardless of the information channel he or she is using - radio, TV, or social networks.
This will be possible thanks to the general planning department for the entire newsroom. This way, half the journalists will be able to work as effectively as the big team that works now. Close cooperation will save time which can be used for a more thorough research on the topic and information processing.
In the future, every journalist will be able to work independently on two or three platforms, but the newsroom will also get "centers of excellence" for each platform which will help the colleagues to learn to work with the web, TV and radio. Most journalists will be located in specialized departments such as political, international, etc. Each journalist will be responsible not only for the search of stories, the collection and verification of information and making videos, but also, for independent news’ formatting and distribution across multiple platforms.
"The coordinator of the central department describes the story he or she wants to run in the news at 10 o’clock and on radio. We post the photo on Instagram and tell the public that we are currently working on the story, so more will be in the news at 10 o’clock. Then, we make a short 30-second clip and post it on Facebook, also referring to the more detailed information on other platforms," says Morten on the work development in the future newsroom.
Today, NTU and NRCU broadcast news only in specific hours. The rest of the time, there are no news on the channels. But with the technological advancement, fewer people can afford to sit in front of the TV waiting for a specific hour; so it is very important to have the continuity of news broadcast. In order to do this, the journalists will work according to new schedule and shifts, and more attention will be paid to social networks, websites and mobile applications. This way, the people will be able to get the news even if they are stuck in a traffic jam.
It is very important to inform the audience in a timely manner. Therefore, the reporters and journalists will often have to publish their information directly from smartphones without checking it with the central department: "The journalists should be responsible for their own content and publish it directly from their media such as personal accounts in social networks."
Newsrooms: the outside and inside
To accommodate the newsroom, Danish team recommended using the building of the National Radio because it appeared to them as the most attractive of all media buildings of the First Channel. However, Ukrainian team still opted for the old unfinished warehouse at NTU. In their opinion, it will be more convenient to move around the city with equipment from this particular location. Besides, it is not easy to get the permission to reconstruct an old building in Ukraine, and it is much easier and cheaper to rebuild an old space.
Newsroom will consist of one large room on the ground floor for 84 workplaces with 2 multipurpose studios. It can be divided into several sections: a central table with the editor and six journalists and seven specialized departments such as international, regional, politics, business, crime, society and sports. It is the backbone of journalism where the stories will be prepared and collected. Also, there will be a department working "on the way out"; it will create stories for the specific platforms like TV, radio and Internet. In addition, there will be 2 multifunctional studios, which can be used both for radio and TV.
If budget can afford it, the newsroom will get a second floor with lounge areas and meeting rooms for guests and employees who work outside of the office (photographers, field reporters). Balcony will be edging the second floor of the studio with a blank space in the middle, where, looking down, people will observe the life of the newsroom, and the walls will have the monitors broadcasting the latest news. It isbeautiful and comfortable, but with lack of funding, the newsroom is fully capable of working on the first floor only.
Denmark and Ukraine: cultural realities
In Ukraine, the Danes had to deal with the peculiarities of the local reality: many of our problems turned out to be a complete surprise to them. Danes were shocked with Ukrainian salaries and the schemes of paying them, the lack of clear analytics and measures on the market share in the regional media companies. However, the biggest cultural difference was in the details: "When we were planning the shifts, it turned out we could not give a journalist the 12-hours schedule because the majority had a second and sometimes a third job”, says Morten. "For us, it is not clear: why can’t you pay the employees enough so they can fully concentrate on one job and devote all of their time and energy to it instead of sacrificing the qualitywhile trying to manage a second job in the tight schedule?”
Danes also had to deal with local specifics during the planning of shifts; it turned out that the public transport does not work after 11pm, and in order to get to work at night, the journalist would have to spend the entire salary on taxies. Morten Barndstrup explained why there were no such problems in Denmark: "All our journalists have driver’s licenses, and if they do not have a car, they can drive corporate cars or ride a bike."
In Denmark, there is no fixated schedule at all, and the schedule is planned individually with the help of computer programs. "I have never had a job from Monday to Friday. I usually work 3-3.5 days a week and have very long shifts. This can happen on weekends or any day, actually. I know my schedule for the next month somewhere in the middle of the current one,” says Peter Ettrup, journalist of the international department of TV2.
It may seem like a pretty relaxing schedule, but the schedule of the journalists at international department of First Channel was even less dense, "We usually work week after week. When I first came to NTU, I was surprised, too," says ArsenTsymbaliuk, a journalist at the international department of First. "Then it became clear that at least half of the developed channels in Ukraine have the same schedule for the journalists in international sections.”
When Ukrainians suggested including electricians as the channel’s workers, Danes experienced another surprise: "Why electricians as the newsroom workforce? What will they do? In Denmark, no one would have such an idea since there are no functions for electricians in this situation. Ukrainians explained that someone had to check the backup generator. But if you have a house, it does not mean that you need to have a plumber in it to extract water from the pipes," Morten says with surprise.
Working process in Denmark and Ukraine
The newsroom will have three work shifts all the time: from 2.30 am until 11 pm.
The main editor of the central department will be assisting six journalists who produce "quick" content for all the platforms while special sections will work with long stories which require research and analysis. Journalists who make up these departments will be primarily specialists in their respective fields such as sports, politics, etc. Based on the stories of these journalists, the editor may send a team of traveling reporters to assist in covering the events. They are also expected to investigate corruption cases, authority abuse, crimes of the banks and large corporations.
Twice a day, the chief editor will meet with the web, radio and television editors to discuss the future broadcasts. Planning for the next day and the day after is carried out in a special center whose editor monitors the upcoming stories and maintains a close connection with both the specialized and regional departments, and with the chief editor. His or her task is to plan the day to have three central stories that are to be developed and receive more details throughout the day.
Besides the journalists working in the newsroom, the chief editor will also form five teams of five traveling reporters. They will carry out live coverage for different news broadcasts by instantly sending photos and first quotes from mass events, incidents and major interviews.
In the future, all departments will know the plan of their work for the next day at 7 pm of the previous day. Thanks to the web planning, each newsroom employee will receive a short description of the story and all the materials available for it: photos, videos, articles, and a working plan for traveling reporters and guests in the studio.
Stories should not only provoke a public debate, but also encourage the audience to share their own materials and testimonies. This will not only build connections with the audience, but also improve the quality of the stories.
There will be coordination and work with the regional studios: their editors will send the working plan every day with the local events in the region that need to be covered, and some of them will receive publicity on the national level.
There will be a more rational usage of the websites and social networks because today, the website is not even in the news department since it belongs to the PR-department. They do not produce their own news and only run podcasts with TV clips and post information on the TV schedule. In the future, the website will become a full-fledged news resource with a non-stop publication of news and articles. In addition to the website, the web department of four journalists and editors will publish different versions of stories on mobile applications and social networking such as Youtube, Facebook, Vkontakte, Twitter and Instagram.
At the moment, there are no foreign correspondents in NTCU newsroom. Morten Brendstrap explained that the reason was the irrational use of technology: "A reporter is assigned a photographer, and for broadcast, the channel uses a very expensive satellite equipment which is transported in trucks.
Peter Ettrap says that Danish TV2 has two international offices: one in Shanghai and another one in Brussels. At the same time, he was a sole correspondent in Shanghai for an entire year when he monitored the events and did live broadcasts. Peter says the work of a foreign correspondent is significantly different from the usual schedule because a correspondent needs to do everything: "I take and use my own equipment, do the live broadcast, record videos, edit and publish it by myself. In a day, I manage to do a story and a few live broadcasts." Peter assures that it is more convenient to have live broadcasts from the studio whenever working abroad because it saves time. But calling it a studio would be an exaggeration: "Studio in Brussels is a small room with lights and camera. You click the button, and you get a picture of Brussels on the wall behind you,” says Peter.
Peter said that even Denmark is not as organized as it should be. Now, he works on reforming Brussels office. There are only two journalists, but whenever a reporter would leave the studio, a Danish photographer would be sent there. So, the channel would pay for his trip and living expenses in Brussels."This is ridiculous," says Peter.
MotrenBrendstrap agreed that such problems are still taking place although the transition to the new working format was happening in the last 10 years. "Everything depends on the reporter. There are still people who find it difficult to retrain and get used to the versatility. Most of them are elderly journalists with extensive experience on TV who are amazing with the camera and have credibility among the population, but they are helpless when working with social networks. In such cases, it is best to find a young professional and make both journalists work in a team," Morten advises.
To ensure the efficiency of the new approach, we need a common server system that will make all materials available simultaneously for all journalists, regardless of the platform for which they are working. Also, all journalists will be working with the same software, so that everyone in the newsroom will have instant access to reports and texts and agree on a common format for all materials that saves time.
In the transformed newsroom, the news production should be as simple and cheap as possible, but at the same time, it has to be universal; the reporter must gather audio, video, text and graphics on one device whether he or she is in the center of Kyiv or Bagdad. Therefore, each reporter will have Macbook and iPhone, and with the Internet, everything can be done with these two devices.
In Ukraine, journalists do not work this way yet,” says Morten Brendstrap
He also assures that the personal laptop (or a tablet) and smartphone are integral parts of the journalist’s lifestyle, and without them, it is impossible to have a full professional development.
Training and education
According to Morten, we need about two months to completely retrain journalists to work in a new format. During this time, they will learn everything from the distribution of new responsibilities to the technical details. In the current newsroom on First Channel, few journalists can edit videos. There are five editing rooms in the studio with video engineers whose only duty is to edit videos. In the transformed newsroom, all the journalistswill not only know how to edit the videos, but independently handle all of their materials.
Learning how to work with new programs and tools will take no more than two weeks, says Morten. However, after journalists will begin to use the new technologies, they will need another month to fully understand their duties, and another month to learn how to work in a team.
But Morten assures that in order to start to change the system, we do not need to wait for the construction of a new building since many things can be done now. "For example, nothing prevents the team of First Channel to reformat the work of the existing website; after all, writing stories for the site will take half a day of couple of the students. We need to actively use social networks to spread the stories; it is the simplest thing you can do, and at the same time, it is an important stage of rethinking."