Yuri Victor, a senior user experience designer at Vox.com, began his talk at TedxPoynterInstitute Tuesday by explaining how a newsroom shouldn’t operate.
Dysfunctional newsrooms are characterized by a lack of communication that makes creating new things difficult, Victor said. When somebody gets a good idea, they have to wade through endless bureaucratic roadblocks to make it a reality. And when the final project is released, it often doesn’t resemble the original idea.
These journalists, who are stuck in organizations where they can’t get anything done, end up miserable because they feel ineffectual, Victor said. They get into journalism to make a difference, but never get the chance.
During his talk, Victor outlined a few points for transforming newsrooms from places of frustration and unrealized ideas into hubs of communication and collaboration. I’ve listed a few below:
- Break down silosLack of communication between departments creates islands of influence in the newsroom, where managers can reign over their staff without consulting others.
“Siloed newsrooms create egos,” Victor said. “Newsrooms inflict them on themselves.”
News organizations can combat this trend by creating teams with representatives from several different departments, Victor said. This opens up new channels of communication and ensures that people from multiple areas of the newsroom have a voice.
- Communicate efficientlyEmployees often complain about poor communication even when they face a daily deluge of emails and long, boring meetings, Victor said.
To snap this trend, newsrooms should consider taking ponderous email conversations into instant messaging, where members of a team can give input in real-time. Chats also make communication between teams easier, allowing anybody to contribute an idea and instantly answer follow-up questions.
Vox employees try to limit their daily meetings to five minutes to avoid unnecessary digressions, Victor said. They discuss their daily goals and what might prevent them from being accomplished.
Vox.com also uses Slack, a service that consolidates and organizes communication between members of a team. Now, Victor says he only gets emails whenever someone is hired or the office is celebrating a birthday.
- Create a support networkThe day Victor arrived at Vox.com, several people in the newsroom began sending him messages, asking if he had a few minutes to talk. When he responded, they all asked him the same question: How’s your first day going?
When employees make a simple effort to check in with one another, they create a supportive atmosphere that spreads quickly from one person to the next. Before long, every team in a newsroom is supporting every other team, creating a network that’s near-impossible to break down.
“When you value support, you get better support,” Victor said.
Now, every time someone new arrives at Vox, Victor sends them a message inquiring about their first day.
- Constantly question your newsroom’s policyIt may be that none of Vox.com’s organization strategies work in a given newsroom, Victor said. This is because every newsroom is different and constantly changing. Newsrooms have to be able to adapt their culture to accommodate advances in technology.
That’s why it’s important to constantly re-evaluate newsroom policy, he said. Try different organizational strategies and encourage people to question them.
“As content evolves, as platform evolves, we may have to organize our people and our culture to accommodate whatever’s new.”