Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How CNN rethinks its newsroom

LAS VEGAS -- The struggle is one felt in newsrooms across the nation. The demand to change is there. We hear it from our audience. They consume news differently than they did. They want more. They want different. But newsroom structures and old habits are difficult to overcome.

“We’ve always done it this way,” becomes a mantra. Those who try to innovate may face hurdles from their own organizations. Rocking tradition can get you labeled a troublemaker, even if it succeeds.

This is a culture in many newsrooms. I know this from conversations with reporters, producers and editors I talk to from around the country each year during the SPJ Convention. I hear the same frustrations repeated as often we as hear “We’ve always done it this way.”

Such struggles came out in the session “Smashing the Silos” where some of CNN’s most innovative management talked about how they broke some conventional cultures to open the doors to innovation.

Victor Hernandez, who I’ve gotten to know the past several years, and always seems to be a little bit a head of the curve, is director of domestic news for CNN. He talked about how continuing to do journalism the same way creates what he calls “Zombie Journalism.”

Rich Barbieri, deputy managing editor at CNN Money, spoke of how to slay the dragons of tradition and encourage staffers to try something new.

Mike Toppo, senior director of news operations and production at, discussed ratings, page views, but also other measures of success – like a story’s impact on its audience.

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View their presentation:

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