Evolution of a Digital Producer How Traditional & Digital Journalists Interpret Collaboration in Local Newsrooms
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News organizations have been forced to transform how they produce, publish and deliver the news as local news readership and viewership trends change away from traditional media in favor of digital media. This study seeks to understand how newsroom employees perceive the digital roles in their newsrooms and how traditional and digital journalists collaborate across media channels. In this research project, traditional media is defined as print, television, and radio formats; digital media is defined as websites, mobile apps, social media, and over-the-top streaming networks. To investigate how all journalists perceive the digital producer role in their newsrooms, the core concepts studied were the function of the digital producer role, the cooperation between traditional and digital journalist, and how each type of journalist incorporates audience into the work they perform. Using a mixed method approach of an online survey coupled with semi-structured interviews, this study defines how traditional and digital journalists view the digital producer role with the goal of finding shared meaning that can bolster future collaboration and shared responsibilities for publishing content across many platforms and for many different audiences. Interview participants identified five ways in which digital producers service their newsrooms: initiator, coordinator, facilitator, teacher and evangelist. Based on those aspects of work and the feedback provided participants, this study recommends newsrooms focus on five activities: inclusion, education, accountability, reinforcement and recognition. Researching this topic also produced a surprise finding: The discussion created epiphanies and recognition of how a traditional newsroom’s digital team contributes to the broader operation of the organization. Several journalists interviewed said they never really thought about all the different types of tasks digital producers do and how those activities cross the spectrum of newsroom roles. There is still a lack of awareness in the tasks and digital best practices traditional journalists can adopt and share across their newsrooms to prepare for a more digital-first future despite participants recognizing their digital colleagues do more than they initially perceived.
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