At any given time, a newsroom is in the process of delivering new news stories and following developing ones. This can include single articles, or longer pieces that evolve into multiple article stories. Some are even produced in multiple formats — such as text-based, audio or video. Talk about diversity!

It’s clear that many different projects, ranging in kinds and sizes, are running all at the same time! Not to mention the other internal projects that may also cross a news room’s path.

But this is exactly why project management in the newsroom is so important.

Beyond organising time and tasks, having an effective management process promotes transparency and responsibility between team members. Accountability can be taken in both senior and junior levels — across all of the different functions!

But regardless of an individual’s job function, project management skills are essential. In your newsroom, for instance, you may find that individuals wear many hats, and this is just another addition to the skills a person should have. In some cases, it is the managing editor or the business manager who takes on the function of a project manager. Other times it can be team members who are nominated to take the lead on specific stories — it’s really all up to the needs of your newsroom!

So regardless of your job title and the many hats you may wear, media update’s Maryna Steyn reveals four tips on how to keep all the gears of a newsroom turning perfectly.

Tip #1: Use tools that create an overview

In a newsroom, it’s important to keep track of all the projects and stories that a team is working on. This includes information such as who is doing what, when and the expected outcome. For instance, person A will be editing the news report about recent elections before noon so that it will be available for online publishing at midday. But that’s just one task amongst many, many more!

The best way to keep track of each and every deadline is to use tools that allow you to see an overview of all this information. You can either research tools yourself, or ask colleagues or fellow agencies what workflow management tools work best for them.

This kind of tool allows the project manager to both measure the performance of the individual team members, as well as to assess the progress of the team at large. These tools can also ensure that each individual keeps track of their own progress and holds themselves accountable. No more micro-management, we say!

By emphasising the managing of projects instead of the team members, you can bring about more control over the process of developing stories. You will also have the ability to identify problem areas in your newsroom’s existing workflow. It also improves reporting because a team has better control over the entire process. For example, seeing the workflow represented visually can indicate that not enough time is spent on research, but delivery has too much time allocated towards its deadline.

Tip #2: Communicate, communicate, communicate!

Communication is the lifeline of any project. Without it, no project will be able to start or finish. However, there are three areas that you should pay particular attention to — and they are the following:
  • Planning for communication management: It refers to arranging for all right communication that needs to take place when a project (news story) is developed. This includes the list of people who needs to be informed, internal and external, as well as what the goals for all the conversations are. It also needs to explain at what times and in which channels these need to take place.
  • Managing project communications: This involves the keeping track of all the information and reporting that relates to executing the project. These are the messages that are created, the distribution of information, the safeguarding of information, as well as retrieval and disposal of all the relevant information.
  • Monitoring communication in the newsroom: It means that you ensure that all messages between team members and stakeholders are informed accurately and on time. Everyone involved also needs to have understood the information and know who to provide feedback to.

Tip #3: Understand the team’s workflow

You need to have a clear overview of the list of tasks and duties that every team member has ... and unfortunately, no — it’s not enough to have this merely jotted down.

The person leading a project needs to have a very clear understanding of the workflow of their respective team. This means more than just having a to-do list. They need to have a good grasp of how individual tasks tie into each other to form the bigger picture of a successful project, and how this project ties into the overall goals of the company. They also need to be able to see what each team member brings to the table.

In a newsroom specifically, the project manager should be familiar with the various delivery methods and how the project flows from inception to the consumer. In order to identify these processes, they can ask the following questions:
  • How does a story start?
  • What are the resources needed to deliver this piece (human or other)?
  • What are the time constraints or turn-around time for this project?
  • What constitutes the initiation, planning execution and delivery stages for this project?
  • How is the final project delivered? In what format, digital or traditional?
  • How does the final product fit into the company’s overall goals or offering?
Having this in-depth knowledge of how the ‘newsroom machine’ works means that the project manager can identify gaps in the system or bottlenecks that prevent the process from running smoothly. This person can then implement procedures or changes that help the team improve their workflow — benefiting everyone involved in the long run.

Tip #4: Have a collaborative mindset

A project manager — even if they are in a managerial position — isn’t there to babysit a team of journalists or writers. What they are there to do is to ensure that all the moving parts fit perfectly into each other to work like a well-oiled machine.

Each individual team member has a special contribution not only to the team, but also to the different projects that they work on. Similarly, the project manager needs to have the special ability of knowing each member’s skills, strength and knowledge so they can task the right people with the right responsibilities.

Placing the emphasis on collaboration means that a team isn’t just instructed with completing the tasks on their lists, but they learn, as a unit, how their functions tie into the project and how they are all working towards a common goal. The project leader needs to instill this mindset and — very importantly — lead by example.

In having a collaborative mindset, the project leader should know how to work with people. Just because the newsroom functions like a piece of machinery doesn’t mean that the people are emotionless robots!

Do you use project management in the newsroom? Let us know in the comments below.

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Now that you have the tips for managing a news story, why not check out the Three steps to developing a killer content strategy?
*Image courtesy of Canva