Each of the four papers (Irish Independent, Sunday Independent and Sunday World and Evening Herald) and three websites (Independent.ie, Herald.ie and Sundayworld.ie), belonging to Independent News & Media (INM), will retain a small core team of editors to maintain its distict personality. All of their nearly 200 reporting staff will now be pulled onto a single news roster and instead of previously competing for news, they will now be collaborating.
The Irish Independent and Sunday Independent are Ireland’s largest-selling daily and Sunday newspapers, with print circulation of 109,524 and 213,549 respectively. With unique visits reaching 10 million in July, Independent.ie commands the largest online audience in Ireland.
“Before we had four publications and the editors didn’t talk to each other,” said Fionnuala O’Leary, the Executive Editor of Independent.ie in a phone interview. “Now we are going from silo-ed, product-sliced teams to a new group dynamic. Everyone will sit next to each other and hear each other, so you can’t ignore people.”
Scrapping the old office layout which separated the different brands across two floors, the new design aims to improve collaboration and communications. Shaped like an eye, with editorial on one side and the digital developers and business team on the other, the new newsroom puts digital in the center and includes many casual meeting spaces to encourage interactions.
“We have adult conversations between the editors,” said O’Leary. “We are thinking about content, not just about the brand,.” According to the new structure, one reporter can bring in content and it will be diced up across different brands; if it’s live feed, it goes on the web; if it is analysis, it will hold for the dailies; if it is an exclusive interview, it will be reserved for the Sunday papers.
The new setup means that collaborations between editors happen beforehand and all content will be fully utilized so there will be no wastage. The structure also gives reporters a greater platform to collect news and clearer direction. Rather than going for assignment on a title basis, now the reporters are assigned according to topics, medium or angles.
In the past, a breaking news at the courthouse might have warranted three reporters from the titles, each fighting to get the best news at the courthouse. Now the same number of reporters may still cover the event but each may receive distinct tasks: one inside the courtroom sending live feeds, the other waiting outside for video footage and the third lingering in the affected neighborhoods collecting immediate reactions.
The complete overhaul of the newsroom structure follows what had begun in 2013, when the parent group INM, which is Ireland’s largest media group, combined the politics and business desks across titles. The further “integrated platform-neutral content hub” plan was announced in January 2015. It includes cost cutting and redundancy of 30 jobs out of a newsroom editorial staff of 230. The group was reported to have cut 60 jobs last year and 20 the year before.
The decision to integrate the different titles was made after studying and adopting best practices from several European newspaper groups including Germany’s Die Welt and Britain’s Daily Telegraph. The former had integrated its print and online newsroom as early as 2006 and rebuilt its newsroom in 2013 around digital first production. It is now working on integrating television which it had acquired in 2013. Daily Telegraph had cut 80 of its 550 editorial staff and hired 50 digital reporters when it combined the newsrooms for its Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph in 2013.
While integrating print and online titles into one newsroom has been the trend, some media still prefer to keep their titles separate to maintain distinct product characteristics such as the DailyMail.com whose Editor-in-Chief and publisher, Martin Clarke, has said that conflict between the two is too great and it is best to keep separate newsrooms.