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FT managing editor: Integration still ‘massively difficult’

By Paul McNally in Bristol

News groups will find it “massively difficult” to fully integrate their print and online sides “until the day that newspapers die”, Financial Times managing editor Hugh Carnegy has said.

Speaking on a panel discussion on digital newsrooms at the Society of Editors conference in Bristol this morning, Carnegy said the global economic crisis had been the first major test of the Financial Times’s integrated newsroom.

“Observing the newsroom through the financial crisis – it’s given us great benefits,” he told delegates.

“It’s still a massively difficult task to manage the two sides of print and online. You’re always going to have to deal with the fact that the newspaper is on a different cycle.

“There’s no real [solution] that gets you through that until the day that newspapers die.”

Carnegy said a one-off restructure of how journalists work was not enough – and a constant evolution was essential.

He said: “You can’t have a big project, do it then sit back. You’ve got to keep addressing where you are.”

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Nottingham Evening Post Malcolm Pheby said a “patient and painstaking” restructuring of the paper’s newsroom had taken place – with every journalist trained to work across both platforms.

“Our crustiest sub-editors – we have a few – now edit audio as second nature,” Pheby said.

“All stories are now treated as rolling news stories. They are released as soon as they are subbed.”

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger said the group used to have 14 different ranks of production staff – which have now been stripped down to four key jobs: subeditor, senior subeditor, deputy production editor and production editor.

But Sun Online editor Pete Picton argued that some web news operations were becoming too preoccupied with delivery and systems when they should be focusing on story-telling.

“I’m not sure if we’re currently a new newsroom or an old newsroom,” he said. “A good story is a good story and that is all that matters.”

He also questioned the over-use of video, and said news groups should not be “sticking some poor over-worked reporter in front of a camera” for the sake of it.

Next year, Picton said, would be “the year of mobile at last”, but he warned the industry: “If we simply repurpose content, we’ll lose out on a clear revenue model.”

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