In early summer 2006, Axel Springer CEO Dr. Mathias Döpfner surprised many of his staff, and most of media-Germany, by declaring that from now on it was “Online first.” Soon after, IFRA Newsplex was asked to set up workshops to train more than 200 journalists from the giant publisher’s WELT Group in the art of cross-media production . At present WELT ONLINE , the news portal of the WELT Group, sets new records monthly for numbers of page impressions and visits.
In the summer of 2006, the WELT Group (DIE WELT, WELT am SONNTAG, WELT KOMPAKT and BERLINER MORGENPOST) newsroom in Berlin was already partly integrated, but more needed to be done to prepare the rest of the staff for cross-media publishing. Between September 2006 and October 2007 IFRA Newsplex ran a series of 20 specialised three-day workshops. “When we started the workshops, journalists were aware that the WELT Group was shifting to becoming a cross-media company, but they had not practised multimedia at all – they were still working in a separated way,” says Ulrich Lingnau, Publishing Director of the WELT Group.
The first day of each workshop was about providing background information to create an awareness and understanding of why the shift from print to multimedia publishing is necessary. Days two and three were spent practising cross-media production, including writing and planning for the web, multimedia storytelling, podcasting and producing audio slide shows.
One of the journalists taking part in a workshop was Thomas Exner, Chief Business & Financial Editor. He says he enjoyed the workshop, with all its input, pace and interesting subject matter, as much as the professional exchanges he had with other participants: “It was really good to see how easy things like setting up an audio slide show are. I have worked in radio before, so the podcast part came easy to me, but I very much enjoyed getting to know new tools like Visual Communicator. Also, it was a great opportunity to see other good journalists at work, see how they approach stories, exchange different perspectives – lots of impulses for my own creativity. And finally, I got to know co-workers I didn’t know before, which makes everyday life in the newsroom so much easier.”
In order to create the perfect workshop for the WELT Group requirements, the Newsplex team set up a three-day and a four-day workshop in Darmstadt in the autumn of 2006, which constituted a sort of test-run. Participants included WELT Group’s section heads, two representatives of the works council, two persons from the HR department and the director of the WELT Group. The group decided to go with the three-day format, and the first regular workshop began in January 2007, the last one took place in October of last year.
As a workshop leader, Prof. Joachim Blum, IFRA Associate Consultant, says the biggest challenge was to convey to participants enough background information to make them appreciate that the change to multimedia publishing is necessary, and to get them to think in a new way about the media industry, in particular about the newspaper industry. “After one and a half days, they had enough background information to appreciate that the change might be necessary. And once they had succeeded with the practical work, they also began to feel that they are able to succeed in this new digital area, which includes not just writing but also audio and video. These were the two most important conclusions after the three workshop days.”
Thomas Exner says training such as this is an essential part of a journalist’s job today: “It’s part of pretty much most jobs today, I would assume, and that’s the fun of it. Whether it’s new software or new journalistic formats, it’s great to be working in an environment where there are constantly new things to learn. This is particularly true for online journalism, where things aren’t as firmly established as in, say, print, where things have been done in a certain way for ages.”
IFRA Newsplex is the international competence centre for enabling newsrooms for the future. The IFRA Newsplex team provides advisory and support services for developing and implementing media integrated product and newsroom strategies with the goal to increase the value, quality and performance of the news operation in a constantly changing media environment. The services cover strategy definition, product and process benchmarking, executive study tours, project and change management, and a comprehensive talent management programme for journalistic and management skills for both analogue and digital media.