Here’s a summation of the critical points of two and a half hours of the Newsroom Initiative module in the INMA World Congress of News Media last week. I will expand on some of the presentations in future updates (and you can read more on INMA.org here), but here are some of the main points:
• Arab News, under Editor-in-Chief Faisal Abbas, is reinventing itself and the perception of Saudi Arabia. It has a diverse workforce and has broken down even physical barriers between genders in its offices; its reporting on the killing of former deputy editor Jamal Khashoggi added to its credibility even against objections; it will expand into new languages and aim to change minds.
“We complain a lot about being misunderstood,” he said. “I think we’ve done an incredibly fair job in terms of trying to correct (the) narrative. We want to correct misconceptions and report on stories.”
INMA members can watch Faisal here.
• Dagens Nyheter Managing Editor Anna Åberg said the organisation learned critical lessons from the pandemic as it watched its workforce fracture and isolate. It reversed that with stronger editing, promoting more trust between colleagues, attention to mental health, and more collaboration. All that set the Swedish group up to excel on the Ukraine story.
“We emphasised editorship and leadership,” she said.
• Reuters Global Managing Editor of News Publishing Simon Robinson explained how the news service uses its own Web site to create a common sense about whom the teams are writing for — whether financial or media clients. Newsrooms have combined local language and international output; and Reuters commitment to its Trust Principles and impartiality have made it a first port of call for voice assistants, fact-checking services, and Google, as well as its own clients.
“We’re creating a newsroom that better reflects where the news is coming from,” he said.
• CNN Worldwide Digital Senior Vice President Marcus Mabry is a former foreign correspondent who believes human judgment is at the heart of CNN’s curation of its “surfaces” — owned and operated sites, as well as the off-network properties it serves. It creates a constant feedback loop of what works, what doesn’t, and helps digital and TV journalists do more, more efficiently.
“Journalists want nothing more than to have an impact,” he said.
Nuggets from another newsroom leader
One of my most valuable conversations lately was with Tamedia Switzerland Chief Product Officer Christoph Zimmer. The major Swiss publisher is running a major strategy review, looking at its local and national titles and how best to exploit its digital platforms.
It is a familiar set of challenges for a large publishing group. More about that in future newsletters and detail from the interview with Christoph, but here are a couple of nuggets about how Tamedia is working to focus the attention of its journalists on what matters.
“Our ‘North Star’ goal is subscriptions: 200,000 by the first quarter of 2023,” Christoph told me. “On a day-to-day basis, we measure engagement time.”
That focus on engagement and attention echoes the view of Ezra Eeman, the change director at Mediahuis, who told us recently he was using attention as a proxy.
It is clear that attention is only one of the metrics newsrooms need to use, but it is a proxy for more detailed metrics. Which journalists do not want to have their stories read, afterall?
As Globe and Mail Editor-in-Chief David Walmsley said in the first Newsroom Initiative master class: “Journalists naturally seek validation. If you write good quality journalism and it generates subscriptions, then it’s a great validation.”
If you’d like to subscribe to my bi-weekly newsletter, INMA members can do so here.