Community and the Next Newsroom

    by Chris O'Brien
    October 19, 2007

    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?

    Tagged: duke university newsrooms
    • Tony

      You raise a really interesting point about the proximity of citizens to newsrooms and to journalists. I like Jeff Jarvis’s point about the new skill sets and roles journalists will need to adopt: “Journalists must now augment their traditional and valued roles of reporter, watchdog, questioner, vetter, investigator, editor. In the conversation, they need to take on new roles, as moderator, enabler, organizer, talent scout, even journalistic evangelist and educator.” It strikes me that there’s a lot of face2face work in there. I don’t see any reason why this can’t be done within the proximity of a newsroom as well as outside in all the public spaces journalists can go to engage people and be engaged in the public news conversation. If journalists and journalism are to have a future in the converged network society, then they’ll need to work alongside citizens to enable journalism’s next incarnation. How about a space in newsrooms that’s accessible to any and all people who want to contribute to the news conversation, where citizens can get direct input and guidance for their contributions from the journalists who are supposed to be serving their interests?

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