For the last two or so years that I have been lucky enough to
work in Lawrence, Kan., with the highly converged news operations of
the Lawrence Journal-World, 6News and all of their associated Web
sites, I’ve always been a little bothered by a link on our main news site that seems to be immensely popular.
It’s a link to a story that ran in our newspaper on Sept. 28, 2001.
That was the day the combined newsroom for the Journal-World, 6News and
World Online was formally opened.
We have that story linked up in the main navigation of LJWorld.com
because we get so many questions about our newsroom. The problem is
that the story goes nowhere near doing the space justice, let alone
what it stands for.
First off, it’s not really a newsroom. It’s a building. And a grand one at that.
It was the first federal building in Lawrence, completed in 1906 for
the United States Postal Service. It was enlarged in 1930 and served as
the Lawrence post office until 1965.
In 1999, folks associated with our company bought the building, and an amazing renovation began.
The place looks incredible. I’ve been in newsrooms all over the world, and I’ve never seen one like this.
Plus, it’s so loaded with fascinating contradictions and cool eye candy, that it’s hard not to stop and take notice.
A sense of history and old-fashioned “newspapering” permeate the
building, as do state-of-the-art computers, remote-controlled video
cameras and high-speed wireless Internet hubs.
A gray-haired sports writer can be heard talking about how he
covered Wilt Chamberlain’s days as a Jayhawk, and then five minutes
later, the chancellor from the university will sit down to do a live
online chat with LJWorld.com readers.
Historical photos from the area, as well as great photos from the
Journal-World, line the walls. There’s a Jayhawk statue, which is
probably four or five feet tall, that has the mythical bird portraying
the famous Kansas abolitionist John Brown.
It’s a newsroom where a section front from tomorrow’s newspaper and
sending a breaking news story via SMS to cell-phone subscribers can
(and will) be discussed in the same meeting.
Today, it is fashionable for newspaper publishers to call for better
ways to serve readers and advertisers. But when Dolph C. Simons Jr.,
(grandson of W.C. Simons and the editor and/or publisher of the
Lawrence Journal-World since 1962) addressed the issue at a 1991 event
celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Simons’ family entry into the
Lawrence news business, he sounded like a new-age Nostradamus.
“We believe it is important to look upon our business as an
‘information business,’ not merely a newspaper or a cable television
operation,” Simons said. “We want to stay abreast of new developments
and be able to deliver news and advertising, as well as other
information, however a reader or advertiser might desire.”
I wasn’t working for Dolph Simons when he said that. In fact, I was
barely out of high school. But that quote is one of the reasons I
wanted to work for the Journal-World and was willing to move my family
halfway across the country to do it.
And the News Center is our company’s ode to our belief in and the importance of convergence in our local news strategy.
The newsroom isn’t broken down by medium. It’s broken down by beat.
The reporters all sit together. The city government reporter for the
Journal-World sits right beside the city government reporter for 6News.
The sports folks for the newspaper, 6News and KUsports.com all sit next
to each other.
Because the News Center is the home base for such a uniquely
converged operation, custom news budgeting software had to be developed
that shows what everyone is working on.
In the middle of the main room is huge area where the leaders from
the newspaper, television station and Web sites all do their daily work.
The journalists in the News Center work together, regardless of what the logo on their ID badge says. I love that.
And when folks ask me what the secret has been to our Web sites
winning so many national and international online journalism awards
over the last two years, I know they haven’t visited 645 New Hampshire
in Downtown Lawrence.