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A Matter of Space: Designing newsrooms for new digital practice


Over​ ​the​ ​past​ ​decade,​ ​technology​ ​has​ ​driven​ ​unprecedented change​ in news audiences and news organizations.​ ​News​ ​organizations​ ​have experimented​ ​with​ ​business​ ​models, integrated​ ​new​ ​technologies,​ ​adopted​ ​digital​ ​platforms​ ​and established​ digital-first workflows​.

Yet in too many newsrooms, the physical spaces are stuck in the late 20th century.

Now some newsroom​ ​leaders​ ​are​ ​redesigning​ ​their​ ​workplaces ​to​ better support the behaviors, workflows and attitudes required in an adaptive, modern media company.

When The Virginian-Pilot undertook a sweeping organizational transition to digital-first publishing in 2016, editors led an in-house redecorating effort. Vibrant paint and a newsroom-wide decluttering were just part of the DIY effort. It helped re-energize the space and expresses an “out with the old, in with the new” philosophy.

Consider also ​​​Atlantic​ ​Media​ ​Group’s Quartz​,​ ​which has​ ​been​ ​acclaimed​ ​for ​rethinking​ ​the​ ​modern​ ​newsroom​.​ ​The digital-only,​ ​mobile-centric news organization developed​ ​​​a​ ​​unique​ culture ​as​ ​its​ ​team​ ​grew, ​without​ ​any​ ​baggage​ ​from a​ ​legacy​ past.​ ​Its​ ​newly​ ​redesigned​ ​workplace​ ​reflects​ ​the personality​ ​of​ ​a​ successful,​ ​​wildly​ innovative​​ ​newsroom.

And at The Dallas Morning News, Robyn Tomlin and other leaders knew their new home in the former Dallas Public Library building would have to convey that the staff is part of a digital newsroom.

“Space​ ​and​ ​behavior​,” Tomlin said, “​go​ ​hand​ ​in​ ​hand.”

This​ ​paper,​ ​part​ ​of​ ​the​ ​American​ ​Press​ ​Institute’s​ ​​series​ ​of Strategy​ ​Studies​,​ ​is​ ​based​ ​on​ some 20 ​interviews​ ​with newsroom​ ​leaders​ ​and​ ​staff,​ ​site​ ​visits​, ​and​ ​reviews​ ​of​ ​research from​ ​leading​ ​architectural​ ​firms.​

​It​ ​describes how a workplace redesign can express the unique culture and personality of a news organization. It tells the stories of news outlets great and small. ​And it​ ​includes a range of​ ​no-cost,​ ​low-cost​ ​and​ ​aspirational ​designs,​ with​ ​ideas​ about how to ​adapt​ ​your​ ​newsroom when​ ​faced​ ​with​ ​limited​ ​time​ ​and​ ​resources.

Whether​ ​you​ ​are​ ​solving​ ​logistical​ ​challenges,​ ​downsizing, overcoming​ ​space​ ​limitations​ ​or​ trying to ​to​ encourage ​new ways of practicing journalism,​ ​this ​research​ ​suggests space​ ​renovation​ ​is​ ​a​ ​valuable​ ​exercise​ ​in​ ​identifying​ ​your organization’s​ ​core​ ​culture​ ​and​ ​personality.​ ​Not​ ​only​ ​can renovation​ ​make​ ​your​ ​space​ ​more​ ​efficient and support new workflows,​ ​it​ ​can​ ​encourage collaborative behaviors and help ​raise​ employee ​morale.

Space​ ​renovation​ ​is​ ​a​ ​valuable​ ​exercise​ ​in​ ​identifying​ ​your organization’s​ ​core​ ​culture​ ​and​ ​personality.

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