PA completes deal to build 'newsroom for 21st century'

The Press Association has signed a contract with US-based Harris Publishing Systems to build a multimedia editorial system. When it goes live in May, it will revolutionise the agency’s newsroom into a multiskilling force, with journalists working in text, pictures, audio, graphics, new media and video.

Editor-in-chief and chief executive Paul Potts has recently talked of creating a newsroom for the 21st century. Jazbox, the multi-million pound system he has chosen, will allow all news, sport, page-ready, new media and picture operations to be put on a single platform which can be accessed by every PA journalist, in the office, at home or on the road. In theory, each journalist would work on combined packages of a story to sell to the agency’s customers.

The newsroom will revolve around a command desk at the London centre closely liaising with the new northern centre at Howden in Yorkshire. The command desk will bring the editors of each discipline together to compile the news agenda (Press Gazette, 7 September).

Director of editorial operations Pat Pilton is heading a task force to introduce Jazbox to PA’s journalists. Twenty-five of them will be chosen for intensive training in the new way of working and will then act as trainers for the rest of the staff. They will continue as in-house experts on the system after training is finished.

Potts said there had been an exhaustive search for the right system.

The news agency’s IT director, Kelvin Holland, told Press Gazette the search had begun more than 15 months ago. At the beginning of this year, six of the most promising companies were asked to make detailed bids and two were chosen to go to an internal project board led by managing director Steven Brown and Potts.

When it was clear that Harris was the winner, Phase Zero began. Its staff have assessed the whole of PA’s business and come up with a detailed plan.

Now the contract is signed, it will take between six and eight weeks to install the replacement for the old SII system.

Potts said: "It will enable us to supply ever-improving good-value and good-quality services to an expanding range of customers".

Harris Publishing Systems, based in Melbourne, near Cape Canaveral in Florida, is part of the MediaSpan Group, which provides technology to more than 3,000 newspaper customers and 500 radio stations.

By Jean Morgan

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