Traditional newsrooms are hierarchical, command-and-control organizations. They have to be, because otherwise there’s no way to put out an entire newspaper every 24 hours, or a new version of Time magazine every week. There’s not as much collaboration as in other companies, and not as much emphasis on developing consensus. Journalists simply don’t have the luxury of getting together and trying to build consensus. In a newsroom, what the boss says goes.
The newsroom model is an efficient way to produce content. So as you’re creating an in-house media operation it makes sense to emulate this model while adding a few tweaks.
At the top of the newsroom there are two people -- the publisher and the editor-in-chief. The publisher runs the business side of thing, selling ads. The editor-in-chief oversees all editorial.
Below the editor-in-chief is a managing editor. Below the managing editor are section editors -- sports, lifestyle, features, news, local, and so on. Below the section editors are the writers, who also get ranked according to seniority.
Off to the side are copy editors, the great unsung heroes of every newsroom. Copy editors never get a byline, and rarely get any praise, yet they are the last line of defense against errors (or libelous statements) slipping into print.
Corporate newsrooms are more complicated than traditional newsrooms and have different goals. Reporters at a newspaper just write stories that seem interesting, and that they hope will attract readers. A corporate newsroom is representing a brand and ultimately has the goal of improving the company’s business.
Another big difference: newspapers thrive on controversy, and welcome it. Your company probably doesn’t.In a corporate setting, stories must pass muster not only with an editor, but also with the CMO; the head of content, if there is one; the head of public relations; and the people who manage partnerships and relationships with other companies. In the corporate world, the editorial team functions as a service bureau, serving those stakeholders.
The CMO’s role is akin to the role of the publisher at a newspaper. Her role is to view the blog in the larger context of the company’s overall business and to steer the blog in the direction that best serves the company’s needs. In media companies the publisher and editor-in-chief sometimes are equivalent in terms of rank, and both report up to someone else. In a corporate media operation the CMO will be in charge, with final say on the blog.
Sometimes the blog will report up into public relations. The head of PR may review every post before it is published. The blog editor should know which topics will be sensitive and will discuss potentially controversial posts with the PR person even before the posts are written. In case of conflict, the PR person can overrule the blog editor.
One person must be in charge and decide which stories will run and which ones won’t. The title doesn’t matter: managing editor, editor-in-chief, executive editor, or just editor. But you must find the right person. The editor of your blog holds your brand in his or her hands. The editor’s role is not only to edit stories that have been written but to review pitches for stories and help writers shape their ideas. She is the voice of the site, and sets the tone and direction.
If you’re a small operation, your blog might be a one-person operation, with an editor who is also the writer. But as you grow, you may want to add writers. You might have employees who want to write for the blog in their spare time. You should not set up a system where you impose quotas on departments to deliver blog posts, only because the content you get will be half-hearted and not very good. You’re better off to make one employee a full-time blogger, or hire someone for this role.
If you’re a small operation, then your editor-in-chief will also do the copy editing. But if you start producing content in volume, you’ll need to bring in a copy editor. Newspapers often require copy editor candidates to take an editing test, and to do some sample editing. You may hire a copy editor on a trial basis, for a fixed period, to see how she performs on the job.