Journalism workflow at the outset of the digital revolution

BREAKING down how practice informs the pedagogical process is a constant process for media academics.

When I took up post at Teesside University almost five years ago, one of the first things I did was to sit down with a piece of paper and plot my work flow at national and regional tabloid newspapers.

This period, the first decade of the 20th Century, was significant for  journalism practices. The digital revolution had begun – and afforded so many opportunities for newsgathering and dissemination – but for a large period of time was shied away from by newspapers’ old guard.

In many ways my work flow was governed by the processes of an era that was coming to an end. I started my career at the Sunderland Echo as a trainee and later crime reporter. Much of my practice was informed by my first News Editor Pat Lavelle, himself a seasoned crime reporter, known for his award-winning investigations.

The main areas of practice were:

News gathering and reporting

Investigations (FOI; data)

Interviews (crime victims; family tagedy; human interest)

Breaking news (reporting)

Campaigning  (Crime; Community)

Contact based crime reporting

Feature writing (News; crime; historical)

Event organisation and coverage (Newspaper led events; community events)

Writing this list has articulated two thoughts about my time at the Sunderland Echo. Firstly, it was a great place to train.  I was given the opportunity to cut my teeth on a large range of journalistic projects with support from the management team to guide me through my first attempts.

Secondly, while I understand the impact and reach journalists have at national newspapers is far greater, my time at regional papers was where I regularly did journalism which mattered to a community and, I feel, had the opportunity to make a difference. This is demonstrated here, where I discuss a campaign where we directly newsgathered from local servicemen in Iraq.

My practices at national newspapers drew on these skills, but were actually much narrower. Of course the staff ratios are higher than in the regional press so journalists can be geared to their strengths, or the needs of their news editors, in a more focused way. However, there is also a different focus in terms of what constitutes news and the relationship with audience.

SAVILE AND ME: Wish I wasn't smiling


My main practices were:

Long form interviews and spreads (Celebrity, crime, human interest)

Investigations (Digitally gathered, crime, celebrity)

News reporting and gathering

Breaking news (pack reporting; leading)

At nationals, long form interviews were the main focus of my journalistic practice.  It could be argued that face-to-face interaction between journalists and interviewees has not really changed. However,  interview processes and how the gathering of direct source material is under-researched and needs to be part of a wider study.

In order to really highlight changes to industrial practice and how that informs my teaching, I’m going to focus on another aspect of journalistic practice which appears on both lists; news reporting and gathering.

Earlier I linked to a case study of how we, at the Sunderland Echo, gathered content from service men during Iraq. This next post examines a current case study of Western newsgathering of content from Middle East conflict.

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