Monday, March 23, 2009

Sky News: Integration and innovation in the newsroom

WALKING into Sky's newsroom for the first time, you can't miss the studio: no walls, remote camera operation and its circular shape have removed barriers between the everyday presenting faces of the channel and the news operation behind it.
The open plan newsroom, which puts senior editors and producers on the same 'eye-level' as reporting teams, was part of a series of constant innovations in the organisation's 20-year history.
Bulletins were originally broadcast from a cupboard space, I'm told during a tour of the Osterley headquarters. More space was required, the cupboard left behind, and presenters began sitting in the round.
Closer integration of all newsgathering operations and outputs, from mobile and Sky Active to online, led to the compact, concentric layout around the 'studio' space.
Geography is everything: from its former home secreted on another floor, the online team are now in earshot of bulletins as they are broadcast and can grab producers and new news angles as the cameras roll.
Live feeds from the newsroom floor are broadcast from between desks, where online news chats are being carefully moderated – on my visit the topic of discussion being whether a mother should pay for sex for her Down's syndrome son.
Taking part in this is the recently appointed, and much-discussed, Sky News Twitter correspondent – another innovation by the team driven by experimentation and a desire to reach new audiences [listen to executive producer Julian March's thoughts on this below].
"We lucky in that we have a culture in the newsroom where we are not afraid to fail," March tells
Perhaps even more fortuitous is the team of developers overseen by head of technology Steve Bennedik, residing in an upstairs office.
New features of the website and flash templates are being built by a dedicated team, says Marsh, that other broadcasters would kill to have.
While building flash templates is an investment in the long-term, the site is keen to continue experimenting and exploiting the undefined boundaries of online journalism, says Marsh.
Current projects include a data mash-up of the UK's job crisis, multimedia coverage of Pakistan week, Dermot Murnaghan's 'Economic Cycle' and plans for a backpack journalist to cover a project in China 'free of the encumbrances of broadcasting'.
New ways of storytelling are very much the focus of developments, which - thanks to the site's relaunch last summer - are now all the more possible:


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