In a world increasingly obsessed with the virtual, I’m leading a project focused on the physical. Our aim is to imagine the ideal physical space that will serve the needs of journalism for the next 50 years. There’s no shortage of folks who will immediately say, “In the future, there will be no newsrooms.” Perhaps. And there are some news organizations that operate that way now. Check out the New Haven Independent which operates virtually except for an occasional staff meeting in a local coffee shop.
But I’m not convinced that’s the model for most groups. There’s still something intangible about the face-to-face interaction that hasn’t been replaced or surpassed by all the ways we virtually connect. That said, one of the biggest questions we’re grappling with is this: What should be the relationship between the newsroom and its community? Newsrooms will be increasingly dependent on the community to participate. Does that mean there should be public spaces in the newsroom? As the relationship with citizen journalists grows, do newsrooms need to have space for those folks, either for working or training? Or would bringing them in too close possibly inhibit the very nature and potential for citizen journalism?
We’ll (hopefully) be one day building this next newsroom at Duke University in Durham, N.C. And one Duke administrator I was interviewing thought about this question and wondered if maybe a new newsroom becomes a kind of Hyde Park for the community, where people get up on their soapboxes. Just last night, a friend from Ohio State University was talking about how the local NPR station had built a new facility that is not only physically transparent, but can be opened up to hold town hall meetings.
So I’d love to hear thoughts on this: What is the ideal relationship between a newsroom and its community?