In news production, a return of the hunter and packer

TVNewsCheck looks into Deseret Media's news production approach and finds a model it implies is novel — but that, in fact, we in the industry have tried before, though we might have widely spread opinions about that memory.

Deseret's news organization pumps content into a Salt Lake City newspaper, television station, radio station and affiliated websites. Deseret CEO Clark Gilbert, not long ago from the Clayton Christensen-bred consulting stable, won raves for his keynote presentation, a stark problem exposition, at the recent Borrell Associates conference on mobile strategies for media. He certainly appears willing to shake the company's structure to its core, including its journalistic workflows.

The news approach attempts to separate newsgathering — the inputs — from news preparation and distribution — the outputs. The role most closely related to a traditional reporter's job description now focuses on gathering all the components of a story. The role most closely related to a traditional editor (newspaper) or producer (broadcast) now focuses on processing the components into a story for each use case: print, broadcast, interactive.

Newsroom leaders, in richer days, experimented with this separation of the “hunter-gatherer” from the “packer-distributor” tasks. And one form of news organization lived almost entirely by it in the 1970s and 1980s: news magazines such as Time and Newsweek. But you don't see the characteristic gang-bylines on very many newsmagazine spreads anymore.

I always understood that the news magazines shifted away from this model because of its expense and inefficiency. But I never worked for one so I'm hoping some of my media pals will read this and either confirm or set me straight.