The death of Newsroom, welcome to the world of technology
By Oludare Mayowa
In my journey through journalism spanning over three decades, I have worked in more than six different Newsrooms across the globe, from being an intern in some, fellowship in others and real employee in some and employer in another.
For the uninitiated, Newsroom is a large space within a publishing house where journalists congregate daily to assemble the bits of information gathered in the course of a day job into beautiful prose to the delight of their readers.
The newsroom is a place of sweet, grit, and tough analytical laboratory where news, stories, features, opinions and other editorial matters are mixed, formed and birth.
Sometimes for a starter, Newsroom is synonymous with an abattoir where information are slaughtered, dissected and the meat is separated from bones and the useful parts are put together to be devoured by the connoisseur.
It’s a factory where raw materials are roughened up into a refined product that the original owner of the material may not recognize nor spot the traces of the rawness of his or her initial product.
Newsroom, like the one I have traversed in time past is a place of fear and anxiety where reporters who are not sure of their onion are made mincemeat of and turned to a jellyfish until they are able to learn the rudiment of the trade and became bolder like a lion.
It’s also a place of fun, gist and jest, where the ludicrous is downplayed and human anatomy is translated into what seemingly sound abominable in the ears of some uninitiated.
How can mature minds create a joke out of human anatomy and feel good about it if not in the newsroom. In the days of the layout sheet, when hole and insertion meant two different meanings.
When words like working under means more than the sound of the word and when senior journalists order the younger one to check the back page means more than he intended or what was on your mind.
It’s also a place of betrayal when dog eat dogs to survive and get the attention of their editors and superiors. It’s a place where meanings are read to a simple write up, where a journalist report can be classified as smelling of something else, (you want to ask how can a mere offcut paper with word written therein, that is a sheet of paper containing information smell?), where motive are read into every initiative by a reporter.
It’s a place when sub-editors will yank off reporters byline simply because he doesn’t like his or her face or the reporters have not seen them for proper briefing.
More importantly, it’s a place of learning, knowledge and wisdom, where rookies are refined into giant killers and where the rudiment of journalism is screwed down the brain of many just out of higher institutions wanting to make something out of their lives.
The Newsroom sometime can be as big as a cathedral, with the presiding priest in the person of the news editors sitting on the pulpit dictating the pace of event while his congregation struggles to put together fine words to capture the event of the day.
I can recall the days of Dapo Aderinola as the News Editor in the old Daily Times, you must be a man with tough skin and a strong mind to dare the newsroom whenever he is on his seat. The mere sight of him injects fear into a lily liver reporter’s heart while his shout will awaken the terror within and quake the heart.
He was like the commanding officer, bellowing orders to the troop and extracting the maximum performance from them. Beneath those shouts and seemingly harassment was a pleasant man, who merely in love with his job and profession and wanting the best product out of the factory.
The newsroom is probably the first contact of a journalist with journalism; forget about all those classroom theories and grandstanding and pontification by some lecturers the real deal is in the newsroom.
In the days of people like Tunde Ipinmisho as the copy editor in the newsroom of the old Daily Times, a reporter will read his or her final report when it would have been published and she will be like when did I write this report? Ipinmisho would have removed all the irrelevant portion, like a raw gold coming out of the furnace, the report would have been transformed into a great readable and meaningful report suitable for the newsstand.
I am very sure there are other copy editors who carry out such burnishing of stories and turned them to great prose in conformity with the house style. So any modern day journalists that are yet to pass through the newsroom may not qualify to be called one.
Journalism is not about writing grammar or good prose but more of communication and passing on the right message with the right language in a manner that the reader will be able to grasp the essence without checking through the dictionary or get confused about the meat of the news report.
That is the great lesson every great journalist picked up from the newsroom and not from the classroom. The magical casting of headlines that is persuasive that will usually catch the attention of the readers who would want to read the breaking news.
The super description in the editorial page that always woo the readers, compelling them to take action on the ill in the society that is causing dislocation and warranted the editorial write up.
All the news, stories and editorial that caused leaders of governments and captains of industry to quake and wanting to seek the heads of the ‘offending’ journalists or the writers on a platter just because their reports have caused them some discomfort.
But today, all of that seems to have vamoosed and gone with the wind; the culture of the newsroom is gone, print journalism is dying and everyone with internet and smartphones have transformed overnight into journalists and emergency reporters.
News reporting no longer has a format, house style or guide to follow and at the click of a button on the smartphones or electronic devices, important news are broken across the globe by those who have no training or knowledge of the rudiment of journalism.
Sometimes, it’s like a mechanic carrying out the function of a surgeon or a bricklayer doing the work of an architect, you can imagine the outcome of the product.
This day, the real reporter could be the last to get to the scene of the news break; citizen journalism has taken over from professionals and all rules of balancing, factual and cross checking have been sacrificed on the altar of who break the news first.
News no longer waits for the journalists to hear from the other side, rather the more fanciful the news, the more believable it becomes.
Those who still want to rush to the newsroom to process the raw material before passing it on to the readers are now either doing catch up or serving the meal when it’s stone cold just because the new norm is to serve the news raw or as it is.
On Twitter Street, Facebook, Instagram or YouTube, before you say jack, the news is out there. Internet cum social media has signaled the death of the newsroom, where the raw information ought to have been incubated before hatching; the news is now served raw with all the scales and dirt.
The newsroom where orderliness, gatekeeping and editing took place in time past has been slaughtered on the altar of expedience and what we have more or less is the trump of fake news.
The reading culture has become one of the first casualties of the death of the newsroom; ethical practice has since taken a flight through the window panel simply because the newsroom is dead.
The integrity that is associated with byline has since been interred with the newsroom while the discipline that comes with belonging to a reputable news organization has since gone under and replaced with cheap blackmail by those who now have the control of the keyboard and not the pen unlike the days of the newsroom.
Yes, the advent of technology has brought about revolution in the way news are tracked and reported. It has fast track and shortens the process of news reporting, people could now be served faster than ever before. The convenience and reach of news service for readers has greatly improved by the deployment of technology, no doubt but the import of the newsroom to news brewery cannot be overlooked.
But who am I to disagree with the modern trend, if you can’t beat them you better join them otherwise you will be left behind in the scheme of things.
The most acceptable medium of news and trend now is the social media, traditional media is dying and struggling to stay alive, attempt to keep it alive remains a huge task for its promoters.
But even within the context of the internet, social media and blogging, sanity can still reign if only the society look back and sieve out the element of the norm that is not working and make it work.
While I am not advocating the control of the space currently being occupied by social media, a kind of structure and processes should be incorporated to enable the society reduce the damaging effect of the absence of the gatekeeping platform provided by the newsroom to ensure sanity in the way news are reported by the modern day practitioners.
It’s time professionals rise up to salvage the situation, take a cursory look at the prevailing trend and seek out the best way to redeem the time and save all of us from the pang of fake news or news that fall below the standard.
Way back in secondary school, students were urged to read newspapers to help them improve on their English language, today, because of the absence or the death of the newsroom all that is gone. Standard has fallen, all the functions that make newsroom what it used to be have been combined into one keyboard.
The writer is now the editor, sub-editor and publisher and even the marketers of the news while readers are left with no option but to savour whatever they are served in the name of news reporting.#GFD