What a clickbait headline! But let me explain why newsrooms need to imagine a new form of collaboration.

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 with oldfashioned settings.

These damn silos

The main problem with newsrooms is silos: Most of the newsrooms work in outdated teams evolved in an era when the world seemed more straightforward.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 to 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 of 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 inter-disciplinary effort.

What is the result? Readers get fragmented reporting on all the issues, making it harder for them to understand 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.

And of course, the news platforms miss a purposeful bundling feature for subjects. The probability that you’re missing at least one piece is relatively high.

Here's an accurate picture of a newsoom. Image: Jim Witkowski
Here's an accurate picture of a newsroom. Photo: Jim Witkowski

Shared knowledge

A lack of collaboration in newsrooms does not only affect the audience; it also has implications on the journalists. We recognize the know-how of teams in terms of beats they cover.

However, digital journalism requires a variety of skills: Social media, data mining, coding, video, graphic design,… The list goes on and on.

Having an open and collaborative culture means that these skills get spread around, creating a free learning environment — a nice side-effect in a time when resources are scarce.

Kill The Teams