Temple University’s School of Media and Communication has launched a project that will support four legacy newspaper newsrooms as they identify ways to improve their digital practices through changes in technology, workflows and even job roles.
The project will help the Philadelphia Media Network, The Dallas Morning News, the Star Tribune and the Miami Herald, with the support of a $1.3 million Knight Foundation grant. All newspapers involved have established their mark in the digital space; however, the Knight-Temple Table Stakes Project will help accelerate their progress.
The newspapers’ print formats will continue to be important. The project will utilize their newsrooms as testing platforms to identify best practices within the digital and mobile realms to develop a framework for other news organizations to adopt.
“By working closely with four specific news organizations, we could develop a high level of information and research to equip the industry with the tools required as a dominant digital operation. Obviously, that’s where the eyeballs are these days,” said Arlene Notoro Morgan, assistant dean for external affairs at Temple University’s School of Media and Communication.
The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News – part of the Philadelphia Media Network – along with Philly.com, see the project as an opportunity to define their digital newsgathering gaps.
“This process will help us identify and implement strategies, so it’s a little early to cite specifics – but by the end, the organization will have a shared view of what is required to be digital leaders – and we and the other partners will be able to share that with others in the industry,” said Sandra Shea, director of strategic partnerships for Philadelphia Media Network and editorial page editor for the Philadelphia Daily News.
The entire initiative is part of a major digital transformation effort on the Knight Foundation’s part to contribute to the sustainability of journalism. While Temple University will lead the project, a team under the direction of Doug Smith, executive director of Columbia Journalism School’s Sulzberger Program, has been designated to help.
The team includes Quentin Hope, project advisor at the Sulzberger Program, Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute and Jeff Sonderman, deputy director at API. The API duo will guide a research effort to identify best practices and expertise that will better inform the efforts of the project.
“Working with four organization teams, the project consultants and researchers must assess where the individual organizations currently are in regard to how they use technology to tell their stories,” said Morgan. “The project is designed to help develop the goals on where they need to be to meet their audience interests. Smith describes this as a “from” to “to” process.”
Morgan notes that the project is posed to encounter challenges with regard to finances. She said there has yet to be a formula for how to consistently grow financial resources within a news organization to get stories.
“Right now, print newspaper advertising still brings in quite sizable amounts of money to underwrite newsroom budgets,” said Morgan. “But we cannot depend on that for the long range.”
The project’s ultimate purpose is dependent on each organization’s goals in serving their readers; however, Morgan notes that the major objective is for all newspapers involved to “get smarter” about using technology for their storytelling efforts.
In addition, she hopes the project will inspire university faculty members everywhere to experiment with new teaching methods and ideas on the digital front.
“I don’t know if we are ever going to get to 100 percent digital — in fact I think there will always be a contingent of people like me who wants to get their hands dirty with news print — but I do think that as society embraces a digital lifestyle, the industry has to be better prepared to serve in that arena,” said Morgan.