It's everybody's game now

Yesterday I began listing assumptions and assertions that are part of our thinking about our evolving website management system. Here's another: It's everybody's game now.

Like it or not, the organizational model that says "you guys work for the newspaper, and you other guys work for the website" is becoming unsustainable. Newsrooms -- or, if you prefer, "news and information centers" -- must become multifunctional, multimedia, multiproduct-focused. Call it what you want: convergence, integration, the end of the world as we know it. It just has to happen.

Tools shape the user. Newspaper journalists carry a terrible burden in the shape of a toolkit focused only on print. That newsroom CMS you all love to hate is only part of that picture, but it's certainly a big part. Other parts of the toolkit may be harder to recognize. Writing styles (inverted pyramid, anecotal lede, various approaches to headlines) are tools, too. The concept of a "story" as a linear, written "article" is a tool, too -- one that is obsolescent.

We can't replace all these tools at once, or even understand how they all should be replaced, but we can go through the kit and look for barriers to performance. If the system requires a knowledge of HTML, that's a barrier. If the system requires that you be in the office to get anything done, that's a barrier. If the system doesn't support the granting of access in appropriate ways, that's a barrier. If the system requires that everything be built around a piece of text and doesn't support video, audio, Flash interactive components, and -- very importantly -- the topic-driven integrated approach that Jeff Jarvis described recently, those are unacceptable barriers.

Craft specialties persist, and not every journalist should be expected to perform every task. But the tools should allow any journalist to play an appropriate role in any medium at any time. Because it's everybody's game now.