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Regional editors offer contrasting views on social media coverage

Denise EatonRegional editors gave contrasting visions of how they handle social media and online content aa the Society of Editors conference got under way in Carlisle.

Three daily and weekly new chiefs took part in a pre-conference workshop session this morning entitled ‘top tips from regional editors.’

Denise Eaton, editor of the Kent Messenger, revealed she had restructured her paper’s newsroom to allow five of its six reporters to focus solely on content creation, with a single person handling the web and social media.

By contrast, James Higgins of the North West Evening Mail said his newsroom restructure had been designed to ensure all members of staff were equally skilled in print and online.

Said Denise, pictured: “Leaving our reporters free to focus entirely on content just gave them that bit of breathing space.

“Reporters aren’t chasing hits and responding to social media, they are free to spend time researching stories.  It was a minor change but it enabled my staff to get their mojo back.”

James said he had deal with newsroom organisation very differently in a recent restructure which he said would become the template for other newsrooms in the CN Group.

“What we’ve got is a newsroom where everyone is almost equally skilled,” he told the conference.

James said he had identified a series of issues which needed addressing, including staff not feeeling empowered to make decisions, a lack of creativity, and lack of professional development.

“The most important thing we did was to look at the areas where we were failing.  It was a painful process,” he said.

One of the key changes saw sub-editors become multimedia production journalists, handling web content as well as print content.

Added James:  “It wasn’t neccessarily about cost-cutting, it was about putting the right people in the right positions.”

Also taking part in the session was Sunderland Echo editor and Johnston Press North East editor-in-chief Joy Yates, who identified “knowing your audience” as the key aspect of her role.

She said she tried to make the effort to “get out and spend some time with readers,” adding that even meeting readers who complain about the paper can be turned into “constructive conservations.”

During a question session, Express and Star editor Keith Harrison asked the panel how they go about retaining experienced staff “when they know they can get more money and less stress working in PR.”

Replied Joy: “Newsrooms are full of different characters.  It is about making people feel they are part of what they see as a developing and new way of delivering journalism.”