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Editorial, product teams must navigate natural tensions in the newsroom

By Jodie Hopperton

INMA

Los Angeles, California, United States

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Newsrooms mostly work on immediacy. That’s the business of news. Journalists intrinsically work with speed and accuracy. Ideas and requests may come spur of the moment. A new feature is needed now. 

Product teams think more systematically, with a perennial view. There is often — but not always — a road map. A new request will displace something else that has been scheduled so there needs to be some prioritisation. What are we trying to achieve with this experience? What is the return on investment? How does it align with our objectives? These questions will be asked by product teams to prioritise. The answers are likely to take time to formulate. Thus tensions can arise.

Conversely, product teams may work on a new feature and launch an MVP (minimum viable product). It may not be perfect or have all the bells and whistles that are ultimately planned, but it gets it out in order to start getting customer feedback. Rarely are MVPs perfect. They are not accurate, and that can go against the instincts of many in a newsroom.

Thus tensions may arise. 

This can be a good thing. Too little tension and there is not enough questioning of solutions; there may not be a rounded view. Too much tension can lead to bad blood and affect working relationships.

 

Going back to editorial working on instincts and product being data and structure led, it’s easy to see how tensions arise. However in a productive environment, product will embrace some gut instincts and test them to get feedback on whether the idea should be developed further. 

Perhaps this is why bridge roles between product and editorial are popping up. Once such leader told me his role was effectively to “organise chaotic requests from the newsroom to give some structure and translate them to product.” He has a deep understanding of each team’s goals and how they operate and can provide the balance necessary.

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About Jodie Hopperton

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