- The Editor (ED)
It is the editor’s role to identify what exactly the story is that the team is pursuing, and plan how the resources of the team should be best employed in pursuing that.
- The Community Manager (CM)
The community manager’s focus is on the communities affected by the story being pursued. They should be engaging regularly with those communities – contributing to forums, having conversations with members on Twitter; following updates on Facebook; attending real world events; commenting on blogs or photo/video sharing sites, and so on.
- The Data Journalist (DJ)
While the community manager is focused on people, the data journalist is focused on documentation: datasets, reports, documents, regulations, and anything that frames the story being pursued.
- The Multimedia Journalist (MMJ)
The multimedia journalist is focused on the sights, sounds and people that bring a story to life. In an investigation, these will typically be the ‘victims’ and the ‘targets.’ They will film interviews with case studies; organise podcasts where various parties play the story out; collect galleries of images to illustrate the reality behind the words.
- The Network Aggregator (NA)
The NA is the person who keeps the site ticking over while the rest of the team is working on the bigger story. They publish regular links to related stories around the country. They are also the person who provides the wider context of that story: what else is happening in that field or around that issue; are similar issues arising in other places around the country. Typical content includes backgrounders, explainers, and updates from around the world.
Over the course of my work with newsrooms around the world, reorganizing them for the techniques and technologies of non-traditional newshandling, I’ve come to focus on a four-desk organizational model that meets all the workflow requirements for effective multiplatform media.
It’s called the J-Desk model, emphasizing that all the desks are part of the core work of professional journalism today, even if it is not work typically recognized as journalism. I use the designations J1, J2, J3 and J4 for the desks, for the people who lead the desks and for the journalists trained to work in each of these capacities.
Interestingly, people familiar with military staff management will recognize a relationship to the highly effective organizational structure originally devised by Napoleon. Further interestingly, it appears from this article that Paul Bradshaw of the Birmingham School of Media in the UK has come to define pretty much the same core activities for a non-traditional story team. So perhaps there is something to this.
In the J-Desk structure:
• J1 is the audience and interactivity desk. These folks work to identify, generate and organize the audience around the story. They are community builders. They are social journalists tweeting, facebooking and otherwise connecting with those who have interest in what we’re covering. More, they are the newsroom’s intelligence branch, identifying trends, highlighting high-value user contributions and refining the work of the overall team based on the feedback they constantly troll.
• J2 is the content and storybuilding desk. These folks report, research, generate and organize the media — text, multi and otherwise. Storytelling is only part of their work. The larger task of storybuilding sets out to surround the story with multiple points of entry, selectively applying and integrating all appropriate formats to their best roles in the story overall experience .
• J3 is the operations and presentation desk. They plan, design and run the digital environments in which the audience experiences, interacts with and contributes to the story. They are the editors, copyeditors and contextualizers for the team’s media products. They ensure constant updates and improvements in the story experience, responding to story developments and audience input.
• J4 is the special tech and support desk. They find and implement new tools and techniques that enhance the story experience and expand the team’s effectiveness and capabilities. It might be new gadgets. It might be new services. It might be quick coding in response to an immediate need that won’t wait for a typical development cycle. Eventually what they do will become a standard part of the team’s expertise. Until it does, these folks are the special ops team.
What Bradshaw cites as the editor role is a function called newsflow management in the J-Desk model — ensuring all the pieces come together, maintaining the big picture of what the story is supposed to accomplish, assigning resources and priorities. It might be the job of one person if the story vision is being driven by a particular staff member. Or it might be the function of the joint J1/J2/J3/J4 leads.
It is all certainly more involved than these rather simple descriptions. Getting the right mix of skill sets is as much personnel management art as it is organizational science. I would stress, though, that it is clearly about more than just moving the desks and chairs around, which is unfortunately what a lot of newsroom reorganization devolves to these days.
I’d be interested in your evaluation and alternative thinking. I’m always refining the model.