The Daily Telegraph is promising to revolutionise the production process of its journalism with what it believes will be the UK’s first truly integrated multi-media newsroom at its new offices at London Victoria.
This week Press Gazette has been given an exclusive tour of the imposing new facility, as finishing touches are made before the first swathe of staff prepare to move in this month.
The newsroom will be housed on the first floor of its building at 111 Buckingham Palace Road in a huge 67,000 sq ft area that is the largest open plan office space in central London.
Chief executive Murdoch MacLennan said: “What we are in fact doing is to begin reshaping the face of the industry.” The project, known as “byte”, is led by editorial managing director Will Lewis, who has been briefing staff on the implications of the move this week.
The “revolutionary” system is based around a hub layout, with a round table at the centre — where the editor and 11 section heads will sit. The 11 sections — sport, business, pictures, home news etc — will then fan out from the central hub. Each team will be responsible for production not just of the broadsheet news pages, but of digital products too, containing text, audio and video.
The job title ‘sub-editor’ will disappear; instead ‘production journalists’ will work on various platforms. The company also expects to recruit some specialist video journalists.
A four-month pilot system, testing the new process at the Victoria office, has 39 people working on it using a smaller-scale version of the hub, producing dummies of the broadsheet newspaper as well as various other digital products. These include “click and carry” pages — fully interactive pdf files that contain video and audio elements when viewed online, but which can also be printed out on A3 or A4 pages to be read as a traditional print product.
Lewis claims these interactive element smake Clilck and Carry a superior product compared to the “haphazard” G24 pdf offering from The Guardian.
“It’s a disgrace and they should be ashamed of it.” Lewis added that project “byte” is the opposite to the “two worlds” approach of The Guardian. “There’ll be no old media versus new media, them and us — instead there’ll be an unheard-of training programme.” Every member of The Telegraph’s journalism staff who makes the move to the Victoria offices will get an intensive five-day training course in the new systems, including audio and video production.
Rather than following an “absurd edict that everything should go online”, Lewis said The Telegraph’s approach will be more sophisticated and has involved “taking some care about discovering what the readers want and importantly, when they want it”.
This means the editorial team’s output will be geared around five “touchpoints” throughout the day, which have been pinpointed from analysis of reading and viewing habits across different media.
So, for example, the 8am-10am touchpoint is focused on text, as people buy the paper or log in to the website to get an overview of the day’s news, whereas the evidence shows that by the lunchtime touchpoint, they are more likely to download or view video content.
The afternoon touchpoint will involve more audio content, while the evening is more focused on community content — for example travel, since readers are more likely to research and book a holiday at this time of day.
The editorial conference structure will be completely revised to accommodate the new ways of working.
The multi-million pound investment will not be without some pain, however. Job losses are expected following a period of consultation, although the company will not say how significant these are likely to be.
There are currently 430 staff journalists, but the total including freelance full-time equivalents is 611.
Fewer casuals are likely to be used under the new regime.
Far fewer journalists will have their own offices in the new building — only the key editors will also have their own rooms at the edge of the floorspace.
The move will begin on 18 September, when the City team will be installed at the new building. The entire staff should be in situ by the end of November.
The two Telegraph titles will occupy two of the four floors in the building, which will also house a staff gymnasium and cafeteria. The other two floors will be let to other companies.