Our world is changing more rapidly. Globalization and digitalization haven’t just made humanity more connected than ever but also added a unique complexity. It’s hard to understand the interconnected and interdependent issues we face as a society.
Journalists are no exception. However, newsrooms still try to tackle modern-day challenges of informing the public in old-fashioned settings.
These damn silos
The main problem with newsrooms is silos: Most of the newsrooms work in outdated teams that evolved in an era when the world seemed more straightforward. That’s why we have desks for politics, economics, culture, sports, et cetera. For a long time, these teams were a useful tool to report and manage talent. And to some extent, they still are. It’s essential to have these expert hubs because they cultivate sources and experience.
But if we are forced to report on complex issues, the probability is high that it doesn’t touch just one aspect of our society. At large, newsrooms don’t seem to acknowledge this challenge on an organizational level.
I can only speculate about the reasons. I think that often false incentives and a grip on power may contribute to the consolidation of the status quo. By false incentives, I mean the comparison of key metrics in a competitive sense. We’ve all heard it: “Politics performed better than economics. Step up your game, economic reporters!” This competitive environment nurtures silos and hinders much-needed collaboration. Every team is just looking for itself because the analytics cannot deliver decent numbers on interdisciplinary effort.
What is the result?
Readers get fragmented reporting on all the issues, making it harder for them to understand the implications in a holistic way. One day, politics writes about Facebook, the other day, it’s economics. And a week later, we hear something from the tech reporter.