New Reality of Newsrooms


For America’s newsrooms, the last decade has brought a hard dose of reality. Editorial staffs have shrunk, most by 50% or more. Photo staffs, traditionally small at most papers, have been impacted disproportionately. Ironically these cuts come at a time when photos and videos have become more important to news operations, particularly on the Web, where they are known to drive traffic at a lower cost than that to produce copy.

The best and brightest of today’s media companies, all of them assertive and nimble, understand that the fastest growing market for journalists, including photographers, involves a shift away from traditional enterprise journalism toward customized content for companies, agencies and government. This largely unreported trend could open up a large new market for startups.

Taking advantage of these developments requires overcoming several challenges:

Even if the leaders of a news organization embrace the crowdsourcing concept, there must be broad buy-in among assignment editors and others who make countless hourly and daily content decisions. Without consistent use, a crowdsourcing content system cannot be fully leveraged and community engagement will not flourish. It is crucial for media organizations to engage communities at a local level, on a daily or more frequent basis. The dramatic proliferation of mobile devices makes this not only conceivable, but also possible.

While newsrooms are more open to collaboration these days, they may be distrustful of individuals and companies without journalistic credentials. Nonetheless, to fully engage communities with stories to tell, there risks are outweighed by the dramatic benefits – content at scale — if media companies approach crowdsourcing in a safe, authenticated manner. It’s important to bear in mind that even in this era of prodigious content opportunities, media companies have hard-won standards that must be maintained.

Capturing an acceptable news photo or video depends to a large degree on luck: A photographer needs to be at the right place at the right time. Most news photos, as a result, concentrate on the aftermath rather than on the event. But with Scoopshot there are now amateur photographers virtually everywhere. The result is more compelling and evocative photography—an important point for news operations, media companies, or brands. The huge success of just one iconic user-generated image can create a whole new paradigm; while capturing a great image may depend a bit on good fortune, there’s no question that with millions of smartphone images being captured around the world, the next iconic image may be moments away.