I must say that I’m still surprised when I walk into a newsroom and see most of the reporters sitting at their desks, talking on phones and/or working on computers. As editors are fond of saying, the best stories are not found on the other end of a phone and, given the mobile technology that is available in many newsrooms, the only thing I can ask is “why?”
Why would you want to spend the day in the office? Why would you want to be tethered to a phone, waiting for the next story to be delivered to you? Why would you want colleagues listening in on your calls and editors eyeing you and wondering what you’re “really” doing online?
Wouldn’t you rather be outside meeting people on your beat and developing your own stories? Heck, take a source to lunch and (depending on your expense policy), let your company pay for your meals.
But really, with so many newsrooms now equipped with laptops and wireless PC cards or Treos or other smart phones, why are so many reporters still playing desk jockeys? And just as importantly, why are so many editors willing to allow their reporters to work this way?
I have frequently told reporters to:
- Take a wireless PC card equipped laptop and head out into their beat.
- Hold office hours at the local diner. Tell people in your beat where you’ll be and let them come to you.
- When you’ve got a budget line, file it.
- When you have a story, send it in.
Between a cell phone and the computer it’s like they’re in the office, only better because they’re not. Being in their beat gives them better access to stories, provides a visible presence for the newspaper (did someone say “Presence Marketing”?) and makes them available for local breaking news. To me it makes sense. I think to many editors it makes sense.
So what is your excuse? If you’re a reporter, why aren’t you out in your beat? If you’re an editor, why aren’t you pushing your reporters out the door? And if you’ve got a successful strategy, share it.