Wednesday, June 27, 2007


This is the start of the Next Newsroom blog. If you're looking for more information on the project, you can get some background at our temporary website: We expect the real site to go live later in July. And when it does, this blog will shift over there. But more on that later.

In the coming weeks, this will be a place where you can come for updates on our progress building the site and assembling our team, volunteers and game plan. I want our process to be as transparent as possible, so I'll be giving pretty frequent updates on all aspects of our work.

I'll also use this blog to discuss some of the things we're learning and thinking about. And I'll discuss various things that are being written on and talked about the subject of converged newsrooms. The pace of change in newsrooms is astonishing to me. I've been a professional journalist for 16 years (yikes!) now. People have been talking about this moment for years. But now it's here. Everything is changing. I'd been on a leave of absence from the Mercury News for the past year. And my first week back, I took two classes on how to shoot and edit video. Newspapers are shriveling, and they can't embrace multimedia and the web fast enough.

That's scary and exciting all at once. We have another round of layoffs next week. In the past five years, we will have lost half our newsroom (from 410 to 200 bodies). At the same time, the technologies, the equipment, and the cultural shift inside newsrooms have ironically made this potentially one of the most exciting moments in journalism history. We have a chance to reinvent a whole industry.

But it's also clear to me how the legacy newsrooms we use can inhibit that shift. They were designed, built, and populated for another era of journalism. In this new era, speed and collaboration are more vital. When and how people interact, their ability to access the right tools, can be cumbersome and more difficult that they should be. These are all topics I'll be exploring here, and of course, in the larger project.

Speaking of that project, we're working with two fabulous partners to put our site together. College Publisher, an MTV subsidiary, is the leading content manager for college newspaper sites. They're going to be building the framework and features using Drupal, the open source content management system. This is my introduction to Drupal, but I'm hearing amazing things about it.

On the design side, we're working with Leap Design, a Charlotte firm owned an operated by husband and wife team Bob and Laurie Smithwick. Laurie was a Chronicle person once upon a time.

This work will come together in the next few weeks, with the idea that it will be up in some fashion in late July. I'll be looking for lots of feedback as various elements go live.

And of course, this project might not be happening without the generosity of the Knight Foundation. We're honored to be a part of the first recipients of the Knight Challenge Grant program. I got a chance to meet many of the other winners during a conference in Miami, and they're an inspiring bunch. Definitely check out their projects.

In the meantime, I'm building a list of newsrooms and experts we ought to consider visiting or interviewing. So send any my way. And we'll be looking for any and all volunteers to take on a variety of tasks. So, speak up and we'll find a way to get you involved.

Okay. Here we go...

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