July 2, 2018

The Globe and Mail in Toronto used to look like many other newsrooms. Seating charts reflected print sections and the most important news meetings of the day were held behind closed doors in an intimidating boardroom.

“The number one complaint people had was ‘I wasn’t invited’ or ‘I didn’t know it was happening,’” said Angela Pacienza, The Globe and Mail’s Head of Experience.

Often, the oversights weren’t intentional. “There are so many levels in a news organization that you want to include that inevitably you’re going to forget somebody,” Pacienza said.  

So when The Globe and Mail moved into its new headquarters in Toronto at the end of 2016, it moved news meetings out into the open — literally. The goal: increase transparency and improve communication.

“We had this great opportunity to really think about what’s the newsroom of the future, what’s the culture we want to build and how do we get us there,” Pacienza said. “We really thought about why we sit the way we sit in the newsroom.”

Now when there’s breaking news, teams are able to quickly pull coverage plans together by physically coming together at meeting table in the heart of the newsroom instead of sending dozens of emails and creating a complicated structure of planning threads.

The Globe and Mail’s three daily meetings — at 9 a.m., noon and 4 p.m. are held at the same table. “It’s automatically assumed anyone can sit and join,” Pacienza said.  

The open meeting space has become a “symbol of collaboration and cross-department focus on whatever is important for that day,” said Matt Frehner, The Globe and Mail’s head of visual journalism.

More journalists are becoming acquainted with the work of other sections or departments by listening in on meetings held around the table and dropping in and out of the conversation as it’s relevant to them. “You're not walking into this room, distracting people and having everybody look at you,” Frehner said.  

Pacienza said she’s noticed a greater variety of people are being given opportunities to lead meetings now that they’re out in the open. Communication and collaboration have improved, and the frustrating feeling of being left out of the meeting is more of a distant memory.

The Globe and Mail is among several newsrooms that have been updating their physical spaces as they’ve evolved.

Related: Report – Redesigned newsrooms focus on smaller spaces, less clutter and, gasp, natural light

Treasure Coast Newspapers in Florida had a similar experience when it tore down the walls around its news meetings. The Gannett-owned collection of newspapers in southeast Florida replaced desks with an open conference space in its newsroom a few years ago.

The only reason its news meetings had been held behind closed doors before was because that’s where the conference table was, said Adam Neal, editor and news director for Treasure Coast Newspapers.  

“When you get a bunch of editors in the room and shut the door, there’s this perception of I’m not allowed in,” he said. “We wanted to break down those barriers so everybody knew they weren’t only invited, but we want you here.”

Nowadays, reporters jump into the conversation when their stories are being discussed and are able to influence the presentation of their stories earlier in the storytelling process.

“If everybody sat at their desk with their earphones and typing away, our product wouldn’t be as good as it is,” Neal said. 

Correction: The caption on the photo above has been updated to state that the pictured newsroom is the TCPalm newsroom and not the Globe and Mail.

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Meena Thiruvengadam is a writer and editorial consultant whose prior stops include Bloomberg, Business Insider, and Yahoo. Her first full-time news job was as a…
Meena Thiruvengadam

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