New Media Brings New Job Titles to Newspapers

By: Steve Outing

New media operations are creating more and more new jobs at news organizations, even if not yet in great numbers. These typically are positions with titles and responsibilities that are new to the publishing business, requiring a broader skill set than traditional journalism jobs (which I discussed in yesterday's column).

Recently, I surveyed several news operations to find out what job titles they have created and what people in those positions are doing. You may find the results interesting.

The Mirror Group, London

David Mill, group online editor for the Mirror Group of newspapers in the UK, says he recently hired several young journalists as "online sub-editors." Their main duties currently are to re-process material from the printed titles for use on the Internet or AOL, with some editing and rewriting of headlines. "As we take on more sites or add additional material to the newspaper sites, I expect them to be involved in much more editing and design work and also copy writing," he says. "Add in the need for a strong grasp of and interest in technology, and you have the makings of the complete multi-skilled journalist for today's media."

David Mill,

The Star Tribune, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Since the online staff at the Star Tribune is covered under a Newspaper Guild contract, new media staff carry fairly conventional titles, according to Steve Yelvington, editor/manager of Star Tribune Online. Titles include assistant news editor, copy editor, communications editor and interactive editor, and pay scales are the same as those in the print newsroom.

"Most of our work is integration/production, not very different in concept from that of the newspaper's news desk, sports desk, features production desk, etc.," says Yelvington. "We do relatively little reporting -- that responsibility lies with the newsroom's coverage teams. We do quite a bit of original work, however, that is not traditional news work: directories, searchable databases, virtual tours, etc."

Steve Yelvington,

Mercury Center, San Jose Mercury News, California

Mercury Center started with copy editors manning the shop, says managing editor Bruce Koon, their job being primarily to code up newspaper copy that was sent out to America Online. Today their titles are being changed to "online editors," and they are responsible for watching the wires and the Web to update the Mercury Center Web site with relevant breaking news. A night crew sends copy to America Online. This editorial content team also will enhance stories by adding hyperlinks, graphics, photos, etc. Koon leads this team.

The Mercury Center staff is split up into two additional groups:

1) An "infostructure" team that is concerned with site management, functionality and the technical end of enhancing stories and content. "Their job is to make sure the site actually works in the best way possible, to exploit the computer medium," says Koon. People on this team are called "producers" and are led by a managing producer.

2) An interactive and community team that focuses on building communities and relationships. This team handles feedback, forums and message groups on the Web and America Online, and the software libraries.

Bruce Koon,

What it takes to staff a new media operation

To get an idea of the range of employees required to staff a new media operation, here are the titles and responsibilities of an unnamed publishing company that recently hired a six-person new media staff to run its Web site as well as work with online services and on CD-ROM and other electronic projects:

* Vice president for new media. This is a corporate development position. Responsibilities include negotiating deals with third parties involving licensing content, online services, etc.

* New media editor. This person has Webmaster duties and helps determine new media strategy and parameters of deals. The position oversees content preparation, manages listservs, responds to email, moderates chat sessions, coordinates editorial and production, works with other departments (including advertising), etc...

* New media producer. This individual also shares Webmaster duties, manages listservs, responds to email, prepares content, moderates chat sessions, and develops Web site improvements and oversees implementation of new technologies.

* Associate online editor. This person chooses and prepares content, responds to email, moderates chat sessions, and performs sysop duties. As with the positions above, there is no reporting involved, but some editing.

* Online coordinator. This position coordinates editorial and production. Duties include copy editing, planning art and text for electronic publication, contacting guests for live chat appearances, working with other departments and third parties to obtain content, promoting the online service, and responding to customer feedback.

* Design assistant/sysop. This person helps design the Web site, respond to email, preprare content, and moderate discussion forums.

Creating an electronic media division

Certainly, a publisher can create a new media operation on a shoestring budget -- perhaps finding a multi-talented individual who can wear many hats. To do it right, of course, requires a greater expenditure. Here's the staff line-up of a major U.S. newspaper's electronic media division, which was assembled last year:

* Content developers.
* Electronic media wire editors.
* Communications coordinator.
* Electronic media producers.
* Marketing services specialist.
* Member services coordinator.
* Audiotex coordinator.
* Software developers.
* Systems technician.
* Systems administrator.

As you can see, new media is bringing into print news publishing companies a slew of people with skills and experience outside the realm of traditional newsroom inhabitants. Many of the positions described above can be filled with journalists, however -- if they are willing to add new skills to their existing talents.

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