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Reporters should ‘get out of newsroom’ says daily editor

A regional daily editor has urged reporters to “get out of the newsroom” and let others worry about “filling backend pages.”

Nancy Fielder, editor of Sheffield daily The Star, was speaking in a panel discussion on the role of editors in modern newsrooms at the Society of Editors 20th anniversary conference in London.

She said that editors had previously worried too much about “filling the paper” and had fought too long against the introduction of templated pages

Nancy recently oversaw the introduction of a new Digital Acceleration strategy at The Star and related JPIMedia weeklies which will see a dedicated team handling the print operation and reporters focusing on breaking news online.

SoEConf2019

She told the conference: “Journalism is all about getting reporters out of the newsroom, that’s where journalism happens. We previously worried too much about filling the paper which meant relying on PR.

“Your job as a journalist is to go out…other people can worry about filling backend pages.”

Jersey Evening Post editor Andy Sibcy asked the panel what they “wished the had fought harder for” in the changing newsroom landscape.

Nancy responded: “I think we fought too long against templates. If you’ve got good photographs and good stories, I’ve never had a reader complain that a page one wasn’t beautifully designed.

“I wish we had protected the number of reporters. I would rather we had everything but we haven’t. We’ve got to work with what we’ve got.”

Nancy described her role as “fighting for our patch…and fighting for our journalists. They do everything that journalists use to do and about 20 things on top.”

5 comments

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  • November 13, 2019 at 9:49 am
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    Common sense – at last. Let’s hope someone listens.

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  • November 13, 2019 at 11:17 am
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    As Digger says, at last. It should be a given for any reporter to get out of the door and on to the patch.

    The rot set in when pool cars were stripped out in areas where public transport was poor and walking was impossible to remote places. That made it difficult for reporters, when private mileage was cut and no payment made for insurance costs.

    Add in emails, social media, press releases and it became easier to fill shapes and hit story count targets with any old rubbish rather getting out on the patch.

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  • November 13, 2019 at 11:18 am
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    Appreciates good photographs which is brilliant! However, saying “I wish we had protected the number of reporters” without mentioning protecting the number of photographers as well says how much photographers are thought of there! In fact no mention of photographers at all! Always been the same at many places!

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  • November 13, 2019 at 1:17 pm
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    “I think we fought too long against templates. If you’ve got good photographs and good stories…” But all too often the provincial press doesn’t. Reporters are given a box to fill, and they do, but sometimes it’s too long and sometimes it’s too small. JPI papers such as the Star – as well as other groups – have systematically got rid of subs, and it now shows; there is no-one left to say that a story is too long or needs extra space. One reporter I remember could easily write 200 words on a safer neighbourhood group’s forthcoming agenda-setting meeting despite the fact that it deserved to be nothing more than a nib.

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  • November 13, 2019 at 3:19 pm
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    The idea that templated pages help reporters get out of the newsroom and do more journalism is frankly demented.

    I’ve worked with templated pages. It didn’t help at all. My workload was far greater than before, as previously I’d had zero involvement in laying out pages. We had subs. So now I had to write the stories AND fit them to the page AND write and fit the headlines/subheadings AND place the photos AND write the captions.

    On what planet is that freeing me up to get out of the newsroom more?

    I hope they didn’t charge for this conference.

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