Final session. Gerard Noonan has started with a description of how filing in the old days involved finding a pay phone, dropping a coin in the slot, dialing, unscrewing the cover of the handset and attaching alligator clips to it to send what he calls “actuality” down the line.
This last session is another bunch of older white men who run newsrooms. They are Steve Foley, Deputy Editor of The Age; Michael Wilkins, Managing Editor, Daily & Sunday Telegraph and mX; and Murray Cox, Executive Producer, AAP Digital. They’re supposed to be talking about how the “integrated newsroom” changes the way “we” work. I’m presuming “we” are journalists although all these men are managers now.
It seems, so far, to be a nostalgia session.
But wait, Steve Foley is talking about the new layout of the newsroom, how the desks have been moved from an oblong of distance to a theatre in the round, literally. I already knew this from Dan Ziffer, but the Age has shifted the main eds (news, picture, online, the works) into a circle where they all talk to each other and with a back circle of 18 seats of section eds and related seniors. Apparently this is a test run before The Age moves to a new building in two years’ time.
There’s a bunch more but funnily enough my main sense is that this final session is misplaced. Why are all these guys from newspapers? This isn’t the future of journalism they’re talking about, it’s the future of newspapers. Which isn’t why we’re here. Or at least, I thought that was a very old discussion.
Where is someone from the ABC’s very integrated newsroom where text had no place until the advent of the net? How do they deal with TV, radio and online? What about someone from SBS with the same issues and presumably multilingual, multi-news sources? And what about someone from left field, someone from a predominantly online space who is dealing with the new “integrated newsroom” in an entirely different way?
I get the sense, in the end, as Chris Warren from the IFJ says, that rather than being Jay Rosen’s willing migrants about to chart a course to the promised land, I am listening to a bunch of digital convicts, thrown on board a ship not knowing where they’re going and not quite sure why they’re being punished by being sent to this incomprehensible place but determined to make a go of it anyway.
I will probably muse a little more over the next few days. I finished my afternoon having a coffee with my good old friend David Sutton, from those old days of 3am philosophy I was talking about the other day, who is now Manager, Corporate Development at the ABC. Oh, how the humble have risen. We nattered. It was good.