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02. The newsroom meetings

A newspaper is the result of collective work. During the meeting, the newsroom discusses the global production. Such a discussion has three goals :  planning the newspaper’s contents; organizing production; analyzing the content to see what can be improved. A newsroom meeting is useful for any and every type of newspaper, however often it’s published. 

There are three types of newsroom meetings :

1. One plans how the news will be covered. Its goal : determining the content of the newspaper published the following day. In a nutshell : how the stories will be covered. As such, the journalists build a provisional budget for each page : how many articles, what kind of articles, their lengths, hierarchy, illustrations… In a word, they build the skeleton of the paper. An example for a six-column page: 1 report from X… (3 col.); 1 debate recap + 1 opinion piece by Y…( 2 col.); 4 small news items (1 col.).

2. Another organizes how the news will be covered. The writers meet each morning to organize the content of the newspaper published the following day. They each pick their tasks for the day so as to create a “general budget” that will become the “finalized budget”: list of articles, type of articles, author’s names, and obligatory length…

Example of a “finalized budget” for a 6 columns page: 1 report from X (Text 2 col ¼ + Photo 3/4); 1 debate summary (1col ½) + 1 opinion piece by Y… (½ col.); 4 small news items: Justice, Police, Budget, and Economics (1 col.).

3. A third one is a general reflection on news coverage
Journalists meet up regularly – for example once a semester or a trimester – to review together, with a critical eye, what they’ve collectively produced over the last few months. Together they decide on the best way to cover the news to come, and make editorial choices. The meeting becomes a newsroom committee. The newspaper’s director, the editor in chief, can call it with a very precise order of the day.

Example :
a. “The Arab Spring”: our coverage in review
b. Getting ready for the local elections
c. Should the newspaper take a stance in the upcoming presidential race ?

Standing up

Making a newspaper every day is running against the clock every day. To gain some time, journalists stand up when the newsroom meeting finalizes news coverage’s planned overnight. Why ? Because it’s the easiest way to make sure the meeting doesn’t last too long.

Sitting down

You meet seated if you have time for discussion. Such is the case when the newsroom forecasts its production for a day to another, or a week to another, or when the meeting becomes a committee.

Example : for a newsroom divided in sections.

9.30. Section meetings. All journalists must attend. Attendees stand up. Everyone, in agreement with their own planner, formulates their suggestions. Articles are calibrated, that is to say they’re given a precise amount of characters, words, columns, or pages – this must be respected. The section editor, taking into account the global planner, picks or rejects his coworkers’ demands. He decides on the preliminary layout, the dummy.

Example for the political section :
* Page 9 :
– Analysis by A.R. of the President’s electoral strategy: 2 cols w/ drawings by J.P.
Opinion piece: dissension amongst the majority (R.B.) ½ col.
Summary of latest legislative session (L/Z.) 1 col.
Interview of the President of the Senate (A.G.) 1 col ½
Various short news items: 1 col.
* Page 10 :
Story on the far-left’s electoral campaign (A.C.) 2 col w/ 1 photo by R.D.
Portrait of the candidate for the Squirrels Liberation Front (A.B.) 1col ½ w/ photo by J.B.)
Women’s vote analysis (J.G.) 1 col ½
Short news items ½ col.

10 AM. Operational newsroom meeting presided by the newspaper’s chairman or the newsroom chief editor. All sections must be represented. Participants attend standing up. Every section brings forth their budget for the day. Discussion is limited to which stories will be put on the frontpage, and to calibrating adjustments. The meeting should last no more than 20 minutes. A global budget is validated, becomes the finalized budget and is sent to the editors.

10.30. Each section integrates in its production decisions written in the general budget.

5.30. Each service writes up its pre-budget for the following day. Each writer states his forecast to the section editor, who in turn writes up an inventory of all forecasts and starts arbitrating.

6PM. Provisional meeting. Participants are seated. Each section must have a representative. Meeting open to every writer. Each section presents its provisional budget. Roundtable : the general budget. Duration depends on the attendees’ workload.

Self-discipline

Two recommendations for efficient newsroom meetings :

  • Never forget that you’re cleverer together than on your own.
  • Don’t mix up genres: only the newspaper’s content is up for discussion. Other topics, such as conflicts, social issues, syndical issues… will be treated through other bodies.