How newsrooms can do less work – but have more impact
- Most news organizations have a fraction of the staff and resources they once had. So they need to get smarter about prioritizing the work that really matters — and letting go of the rest.
- The first step to shedding low-value work is to ask your staff, “What are you doing that you don’t think is a good use of your time, and why?”
- Many publishers are growing audiences while producing less content. The key to cutting back on stories is to examine which types of stories are not serving any part of the audience “funnel.”
- Once reporters and editors have adjusted to a lighter workload, they should drive the conversations about how to meaningfully reinvest that time.
We’ve published a lot of articles at API about innovative things that news organizations are doing — they’re hosting events, they’re launching newsletters, they’re starting new beats, they’re translating more stories, they’re running reader hotlines, they’re campaigning for civility. All of it is good and meaningful work.
But you know what our most popular piece by far has been? An article about how one news organization stopped doing things.
That underscores a key reality in the news industry that doesn’t get enough consideration.
Most news organizations have a fraction of the staff and resources they once had. So to do more of the meaningful work that we at API (and other groups like us) are always urging — listening to audiences, building trust with audiences, building smarter reader revenue strategies — news organizations first need to get control of their priorities.
And that doesn’t mean figuring out how to do more with less, but how to do less with less.
In this piece we’ll help you take stock of the things your newsroom is doing that simply aren’t worth the effort. They could be certain kinds of stories, burdensome tasks or inefficient processes, or just outdated habits.
The goal should be to return some time to your news team. Time that can be reinvested in things that audiences and journalists value more. Maybe it’s more enterprise reporting. Maybe it’s simply going out and talking to people, with no story agenda in mind. Maybe it’s applying for more grant funding. Or maybe, it’s simply returning your overstretched, exhausted reporters to a more humane 40-hour work week.
So, let’s jump into it:
- First, we’ll present a simple approach to deciding what to stop doing.
- Then we’ll take a deeper dive into identifying which types of stories to cut back on.
- Lastly, we’ll look at some things you can do once you’ve got the deadlines at bay.
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