NextNewsroom blog, live feed – Saf Fahim

Posted 1:44 P.M.

Saf Fahim, architect, Archronica speaking on the newsroom of the future:

“I think nesrooms need as much innovative as the organization all together. The community is now part of that structure.”

“It is a monumental task.”

“The process itself that we’ve learned is also elusive and difficult because how do you find a method that finds what the future is going to be like, it’s virtually an impossible task.”

“Any dogmatic vision does not work.” Organizations say they want to build the best media group there is, but that’s not possible.

“One of the major challenges is the timeframe your organization put” on the project.

“There is a fund role for research and without that, it is almost a suicidal attempt to put your money into a project and assume” your going to have something for the future.

“We don’t want to draw a conclusion of what the century is going to be, what the century wants us to do; it’s just brush strokes, what’s out there.”

It seems that software is taking over hardware

Citing map on screen, he says Europe is ahead. “Europe was modernizing very quickly.”

Japan is also taking “huge strides to go forward.”

1:54 P.M.

The U.S. had a very different profile in the 80s. “Innovation was not really a central focus. It was a backlash to the 60s and 70s, which were very progressive periods.”

Mergers after the dotcom bust failed to produce anything of substance in the world of media

His firm worked on “Media Organization of the 21st Century” with AP. They felt something need to be changed to catch up with time.

  • Showing image of AP concept newsroom from 1993: “Here you have an early sign of how and where you get the community involved within the operation.”
  • There would be morning interactions with the readers.
  • No fixed seats, large screens. “The newsroom [would] become a totally flexible place. There really is no reason we found that you should be sitting in particularly cubicle or one particularly office.”
  • “The place where people meet is very hostile,” for instance conference rooms. The atmosphere did not give a feeling of collegiate interaction.” They wanted a place where people could truly collaborate.

2:04 P.M.

They discovered they needed some kind of training facility to teach technology, organizational skills and structures and feel this is going to work for them.

So, they wanted to find a school but did not find what they were looking for. They went to Columbia — they weren’t interested. “All the universities with a big name in journalism did not want to be involved in the project. Only the new and upcoming schools [were interested].”

Fahim was asked to be involved in developing the curriculum. It was eventually determined that text was still important, but they also conceived what is now known as convergence.

What resulted was the Newsplex at the University of South Carolina.

  • “For us, as architects, it means an intelligent building. … A totally flexible building that the users change, occupy” and that how they conceived the Newsplex plans.
  • They found deficiencies in newsrooms, such as lighting and acoustics. They’ve addressed many of those issues in the Newsplex.
  • Many groups from Europe and elsewhere have gone there to train. The building was able to accommodate them.
  • The desks are movable and can be rearranged. The publisher is nearby and not isolated, which relates to what Chris O’Brien said about transparency in his introduction.
  • They created a cybrarian in the Newsplex after concluding that journalism should not stop at news but how to inform society.
  • They added bookshelves for old times sake.

After Newsplex, Archronica worked on projects in Malaysia and Greece.

“The mission of the journalist has changed.”

Q&A (posted 2:25 p.m.)

Q: Do you even need a physical newsroom when a backpack could be a newsroom?

Fahim: Don’t have to have a building, but you can learn by association.

“There is that collegian interface we found very critical within the location. If you dissolve the organization into community, how do you bring that together?”

How do you build what you need without a physical structure? You need to allow for easy exchange of ideas, such as conferences — a place where people can learn from each other.

No physical newsroom: “That’s a very interesting idea.”

Q from Gary Kebbel: What is the one thing that you find the most difficult when approaching newsrooms?

Fahim: “Change.”

People didn’t like the idea of moving desks. We didn’t suggest people lose personal space, because that’s very important for the creative process.

They proposed a personal space and a team space, each of which would be used when needed.

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