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Rory Green
Rory Green
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Blog Post

How broadcast newsrooms are changing in 2015

Rory Green
Rory Green
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Many newsrooms will have started out as single-platform operations whether it be print, TV or radio. But in 2015, there are barely any news organisations out there that confine themselves to just one type of media. Any one newsroom can now be responsible for delivering stories on TV, radio, online, social media, smartphones, tablets and even watches!  The emergence of the internet and social media has had a huge effect on the way broadcast newsrooms are operating – not only here in the UK but globally.

Sourcing stories

Journalists used to rely on lengthy research, official information from public bodies, tip offs from sources or being in the right place at the right time to get their scoops. It was a laborious process that often meant one reporter could only cover one story on any one day – with their time being taken up with face to face interviews, “phone bashing” and running around their patch.
But nowadays, they can source headline news without even leaving their desk. Many journalists are now alerted to a news story via social media. When the recent Paris terror attacks took place – the first tip off came via a witness who was tweeting about the unfolding events. This has given wave to a new sort of citizen journalism, where anyone can input into a story.

For TV newsrooms, many of the first pictures of a breaking news event will come in the form of a viewer’s photo or video that they have uploaded online.
The internet is also being used as a verification tool for journalists – many use reverse image tools on websites such as Google to check the authenticity of a video/photo e.g. if an image has appeared online in the past, it’s certain not to be related to the breaking news event. Similarly, journalists can check a person’s social media history to make judgements as to whether they are a reliable source.

Streamlining roles

The advancements in technology and the fact that journalists are now able to cover stories so quickly are inevitably leading to streamlining across broadcast newsrooms. Many reporters are now able to cover more than one story in a day, often without leaving the newsroom. As a consequence, many reporters and editors now have larger briefs which cover more than one subject area.
The make-up of news organisations has changed to reflect the evolving roles. Newsrooms are smaller, typically younger, more tech-savvy and oriented to serve the demands of both broadcast and online. In some media outlets, employees are taking on more than one person’s role – many broadcasters now hire video-journalists who produce, film and edit their own reports. And many cameramen similarly now act as sound crews and VT editors. It means the pressure of the newsroom is falling on a smaller number of staff – which from a PR point of view means there is an opportunity to supply B-roll. Cuts to newsroom budgets mean that there aren’t always enough resources to collect all the footage needed and if you can offer good quality B-roll, either to accompany a live guest (e.g. footage of a chef cooking while they sit on the sofa and have a live chat) or for use in a package, then that takes some of the pressure off the journalist. That means you’ll secure coverage this time, but will also lead them to think favourably of you next time you have a story to pitch – win win!

It’s important not to time-waste. When pitching, make sure you get put through to the appropriate person, and do your research on a channel/station beforehand so you can gauge their appetite for a story.

Greater competition

Broadcast newsrooms which have become multi-platform have inescapably opened themselves up to greater competition. They are now under pressure to deliver the best content on their main platform – whether it be TV or radio – as well as on their website, apps and social media sites. Therefore, BBC News is now competing against The Guardian and The Telegraph, as well as their traditional competitors such as ITN and Sky News. Naturally, this is putting pressure on newsrooms to offer something new and different that their competitors can’t, which has led to a greater focus on original video content.

This means speed is now the key to success – and accuracy often plays second fiddle. But the focus in any newsroom in 2015 is going to be “how can we make this quicker.” Already strides have been made. Broadcast apps such as LiveView are allowing journalists to beam a live picture from the scene of a story using their mobile phone before the camera crew arrives. Court cases are no longer solely reported during a break of session, journalists now live tweet and blog from the court gallery.

Distance is no barrier

It used to be that TV and radio journalists reacting to a news story needed to find someone in their local area to put in front of camera, or someone with access to an ISDN line to comment on a story. Now distance is no barrier. The development of Skype means you can speak to anyone in vision instantly – no matter what continent they live on. This year, as broadband speed improves and more and more people have access to superfast internet, you will see a greater reliance on Skype and FaceTime for broadcast interviews.

Similarly, for radio, a new app called Report-it allows contributors to do broadcast-quality interviews over their mobile phone. This reduces the need for radio journalists to hire ISDN lines or try to persuade spokespeople to come to their studios for interviews. For PRs it means ensuring your spokesperson is prepared to be called upon at any moment – we can help you with that, offering media training to ensure they are never caught off guard.

Getting the story on air

In 2015, expect to hear the news as it is happening. With the roll out of 4G and superfast broadband, broadcast journalists are now able to edit and beam back video to the newsroom in a matter of minutes. They’re also tweeting about it at the same time and writing their online copy. It means, a story which would have taken around three to four hours to reach our screens/radio (back in the day of biking back the tape!), now reaches the viewers and listeners even as the story unfolds.
For PR strategy, it means adapting to complement the increasingly busy newsroom operation and understanding the changing roles. For more advice on media relations contact Shout! on hello@shoutcommunications.co.uk or download our media relations guide.


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