Installing and adapting to new technology in the newsroom

How do news organizations find their footing when the ground starts shifting? We’re going to provide a hands-on view into the process that’s unfolding as newsrooms at the Missouri School of Journalism begin exploring and launching over-the-top (OTT) products and projects.

Among the collection of strange choices at the car wash is always something called New Car Smell. Not sure what chemicals make up that fragrance, but it seems popular. When classes began at the University of Missouri last month, the KOMU-TV newsroom was filled with the aroma of their newly installed video management system. Is your newsroom installing something new? Definitely some lessons-learned about what is ahead on our Road to OTT and how this fits into KOMU’s version of Digital First.

A quick detour: No specific products or vendors. In today’s consolidated world of local broadcasters, vendor decisions are often made at a group or corporate level. Plus, the roadside attractions worth writing about tend to be workflow opportunities that go beyond a specific vendor. Back on the highway now.

Technology in your newsroom is a lot like buying a new car; the basic functionality hasn’t changed in decades, so why buy something new? Car makers add new features, improve reliability and definitely market that new car smell (and shine).

If you came through KOMU in the past 15 years, you learned non-linear video editing. You may not realize this is KOMU’s third generation — the school having been an early adopter of non-linear video editing. Now, video management systems are editor-agnostic. For a school whose incoming students learn the mechanics of editing on some device shortly after kindergarten, this was a big deal and means classes can focus on editing and spend less time teaching mechanics.

In many newsrooms, “desktop editing” means producers cutting video for their shows, MMJ’s editing their own stories and often eliminating traditional editing-only jobs. KOMU News Director and J-school faculty member Randy Reeves says, “We decided to keep the production assistant role handling some editing because that is still a very good way to introduce new students to the newsroom.” MMJ’s have been editing their own stories at KOMU for some time. Still, Reeves points out, the platform opens new opportunities including remote contribution. Reeves added that things like submitting video directly from the field is prompting valuable discussions about story development and editorial review If you are a KOMU alum, the Tiger Chair isn’t going away — in fact, it’s a newly upholstered model. The kind of heavy copy editing done at the Tiger Chair falls to EP’s (and anchors) in most newsrooms. Regardless of what Digital First means in your newsroom, the digital eco-system means every local newsroom needs to be having new and different conversations about story development and copy editing.

No surprise to anyone reading this that there was trepidation leading up to the change. Two things eased the newsroom transition according to Jeimmie Nevalga, KOMU Executive Producer and Missouri School of Journalism Associate Professor. “We trained-the-trainers,” said Nevalga when I asked how they managed the transition just days before 100+ new and returning students were to arrive. By limiting the number of staffers to be trained, the vendor was able to go beyond the nuts and bolts. “That gave us a depth of knowledge about the system that we will keep long after the vendor went home.” Part two was a mandatory technology-session the station began a few years ago where returning and incoming students cycle through a series of learning stations on each of the key systems students need to know. The semester turnover makes this essential at KOMU, but the rapid technology evolution in every newsroom makes this kind of regular orientation a good idea.

Completing the transition was an important step on KOMU-TV’s Road to OTT. The workflow improvements create new opportunities, but the decision to replace an aging system was justified on its own financial and operational merits — likely the same in your newsroom. Just around the next bend, a Texas newsroom in DMA 114 that took this same trip almost two years ago and what they are thinking today.


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