Multiskilling will change MEN's newsroom culture

Culture shock: MEN staff learn about multiskilling in the US

Ten journalists have returned to the Manchester Evening News from the US bringing with them ideas on multiskilling in the newsroom which will change the paper’s culture.

They are the vanguard of editorial staff throughout Guardian Media Group regional divisions who will be learning to package news for papers, websites, television and radio and text messaging.

The MEN is a founder member of Newsplex, housed in the University of South Carolina’s communications department at Columbia. Its parent company has invested more than £100,000 in a scheme which trains newspaper journalists to do video production and sound recording on top of their basic experience.

The 10 – news editor Ian Wood, picture editor John Jeffay, sports editor Peter Spencer, Manchester Online web editor Sarah Hartley, investigative reporter Sarah Lester, business editor Sheryl Moore, Go supplement editor Eric Jackson, and sub-editors Judy Gordon, Chris Ostick and Alan Wright – were the first journalists from a conventional print organisation to use the facility. They spent five days with course directors Kerry Northrup and Martha Stone from 10 to 14 March.

Their time was split between discussing the philosophy of a multi-media newsroom and the practicalities and benefits of convergence and role-playing to discover how newsrooms will have to change culture and working practices. They built their own video and online packages, using mock news scenarios.

In the the future, MEN photographers could be carrying video as well as stills cameras and there will be opportunities for journalists to take part in video production. The website staff are already moving closer to the news staff.

MEN editor Paul Horrocks said he had very positive feedback from the group. “They all went for it. One of the big issues with convergence is the culture change of journalists thinking of how information can be applied to different platforms. There had been some doubts in advance but these have been allayed.

“They still have some concerns about funding, training and about this not being a job-cutting exercise. But this is not a way of either piling more work on to journalists or reducing numbers. It is to do with enhancing content but spreading it across different platforms so that we are keeping pace with technology and what the customer wants.”

This year, two more GMG regional groups will go to Newsplex. This time they will be drawn from Greater Manchester Weekly Newspapers, Surrey and Berkshire Newspapers, GMG regional digital and Channel M, the city TV channel, as well as The MEN.

By Jean Morgan

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