It may be happening at different rates of speed, but it is definitely happening: radio newsrooms are going multimedia. In particular, they are using their websites as another vehicle for their news and this requires adjustments on many levels.
Here is a simple way to categorize your aspirations for your radio station’s Web site:
Each step up this ladder of multimedia aspirations requires an increasing level of dedicated staffing and skills and technical infrastructure. Yet even the smallest station can enter the game. For starters, there are numerous free online applications.
The biggest challenge facing News Directors growing their online presence is to still grow — or at least maintain — their on-air quality. As demand for online content increases, ND’s understandably feel the burden of having another mouth to feed.
The keys to meeting this challenge — short of adding new Web staff — are in setting a clear vision for going online, adding the necessary multimedia skills and in creating cross-platform efficiencies.
In a nutshell, the multimedia skills are these:
You can find efficiencies by co-planning radio news and Web news. It helps to see how information becomes available during the journalistic process.
For example, consider the ways in which radio and Web complement one another in this coverage plan:
As the example above shows, your gatherers still gather news in traditional ways except they now think beyond audio. They also gather pictures and other materials for the Web. At the editor’s desk, there’s a simultaneous balancing act seeing that both radio and Web are current.
For an excellent model showing new technologies changing the journalism process, see Outside Help → Paul Bradshaw’s News Diamond.
Major media companies are rapidly moving to a multimedia newsroom model. The BBC, for example, stresses its “360 degree” ability to be at the center what people want and need from online media (ready reliable information and the pathways to find it — plus to inform it themselves). NPR is making similar moves but concentrating on delivering in-depth journalism as its core mission — radio or otherwise.
Local public radio newsrooms can move in the direction of multimedia news distribution by growing the skills of their employees, using readily available technology, and adding specialists in the digital distribution department. All the while, News Directors must retain their responsible oversight of their local journalism no matter what delivery methods are employed.
For a handy guide to the tools needed to post extra content to a website, see
Outside Help → John Proffitt: Web Toolkit
For more on digital skills training, see Outside Help → Knight Digital Media Center