Changing producers, processes and products in the news media
“Save ten steps a day for each of twelve thousand employees and you will have saved fifty miles of wasted motion and misspent energy. Those are the principles of which the production of my plant was built,” the founder of the Ford automobile company, Henry Ford, wrote in his autobiography My Life and Work (1922). Ford’s views on the optimal calibration of the production process in his plants came to inspire the workflows in companies within the car industry and many other fields. But the inspiration from what has since been termed Fordism – and at times also termed Taylorism with reference to Frederick Winslow Taylor´s book Scientific Management (1911), in which Taylor advocates for the use of scientific measurement and experiments in order to maximise the output of any type of production – has not ended with the dawn of the 20th century. Since 2012, the national public broadcaster in Denmark, DR, with hundreds of journalists on their payroll has changed its news production – as part of a project known as “The News Engine” – in ways that resemble Ford’s basic principles. While news reporters in the past were individually responsible for a broad variety of steps in the production process – from finding, researching, developing, producing and filing stories – the news division in DR now comprises ten “live teams” that are responsible for getting interviews, shoots on location, recording sounds etc., while it is left to other journalists to edit the news stories, prepare them for different platforms and still other news reporters – known internally as “correspondents” – to do live stand-ups that can accompany the final news story. All of which is done in an attempt to encounter what Ford termed “wasted motion and misspent energy”. This paper describes how these changes affected individual news producers, the news products and not least the news production process itself, and it discusses the organizational changes in light of past and present research about the organization of news production. Research in the last couple of years have focused on what has been termed the “post-industrialization of journalism”, but which in many ways differs from the changes described in this paper. Empirically, this paper is based on a combination of newsroom observations, content analyses and interviews with news reporters and management. Theoretically, it seeks to determine the various types of news production and workflows in news organizations in light of the changes that news organizations in general are undergoing and the newsroom in DR in particular. These changes in DR have become an inspiration for many other news executives and are being implemented in other news organizations around the world.