Nieman Foundation at Harvard
The News Lens in Taiwan is doing what media startups in the region hesitate to do — acquiring other sites
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Oct. 18, 2017, 1:51 p.m.
Reporting & Production

For news organizations, the physical newsroom has increasingly become a reflection of the digital mindset. Walls are coming down, collaboration-focused huddle spaces are replacing team silos, and managers are being dragged out of their private offices and being forced to sit side by side with their teams.

It’s not a universal trend, however. A new report from The American Press Institute examines what’s driving newsrooms to redesign their physical spaces, how they’re thinking through the redesign process, and the roadblocks they often encounter along the way. Here are a few findings.

Newsroom renovations (and relocations) are driven by a variety of factors. Quartz and The Washington Post, for example, moved offices to create more space to accommodate their ambitious growth plans, while The Virginian-Pilot needed less space after closing its bureaus and eliminating staff. Newsrooms also redesign to boost morale, hoping that, by bringing in more natural light and brighter paint schemes, they can help offset some of the existential stress inherent to being in a newsroom today.

There​ is ​no​ ​one-size-fits-all​ ​floor​plan. Built around collaboration and flattened management structures, the Silicon Valley ethos of open office plans has, for better or for worse, spread to newsrooms. But designers API interviewed cautioned that newsrooms should also make sure to balance their design efforts by creating spaces for both ​“we”​ ​vs.​ “​me”​ ​time. While collaboration is increasingly important for newsrooms, reporters and other staff also need places to work privately and free of distraction.

Newsroom floorpan designs are increasingly reflecting companies’ strategic priorities. At The Washington Post, for example, teams are arranged so that team members are in ​“chair-rolling”​ ​distance, which the Post said would foster collaboration. Engineers are embedded within sections, the social media team sits close to the edit hub, and video, photo, and product teams are all within earshot of each other.

Newsrooms can be designed around mobility, agility, or both. Mobility-focused newsrooms are designed to give workers plenty of options when they need a change of scenery. A focus on agility led Quartz to design the Workshop, a space where people can experiment with sensors, bots, and other ideas that can lead to much bigger ones down the line.

Newsrooms don’t need pricey designers and architects to make effective changes. The Virginian-Pilot​, for example, had a dark lobby dominated by trophy cases. It repainted the space, replaced the trophy cases with two 15-foot​-long ​butcher​ ​block​ ​​tables​, bar stools, and has plans to install a television down the line.

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