The following post was originally published on Steve Buttry’s blog.
Since last week’s announcement of Project Unbolt, various news-industry blogs have taken note:
Newspapers have become comfortable publishing content online before it runs in print, but the nature of that content has been influenced by newspaper thinking throughout the planning, reporting, writing and editing process. So Project Unbolt is about going beyond publishing content first on digital; it’s about publishing content first on digital in a digital-native way.
In terms of coverage, Buttry said DFM newsrooms “want to move to live coverage as a default setting” for diary or time-sensitive events, while newsworthy elements of longer, more time-intensive stories will be reported digitally before a comprehensive print publication.
“Does the first story plant the flag in the ground, start a conversation and do some crowdsourcing?” he asked. “And then it unfolds in digital formats with interactive databases and live chats and we might publish documents online, similar to what the Guardian did with the MPs expenses, and ask the readers to help find stories.”
“If we publish something online on a Wednesday, because it’s timely, then after a few days of discussion we’ll publish it in print on a Saturday. It doesn’t need to be online the day before if it is in print,” he said of how the digital and print processes may change. “These are the things we’ll be working on, and becoming more efficient at, in the print production from the digital content.”
But what do these kinds of workflow changes really come down to? Who at DFM is holding the machetes, hacking the first traces of a path into this purely digital future? And what should other media companies be looking for to steal for their own playbooks in terms of concrete practices with measurable results?
The early answers are surfacing among editors leading the project and the work of DFM’s more independent experimenters, some of whom are working at papers outside of the pilot. All of them are pointing to questions that, sooner or later, every journalist working in the digital age will have to squarely face. The biggest one: Is a story the final product of the reporting process?
More than just refocusing attention to mobile reporting, engaging with audiences over social media or creating new ways to play with and use data, Project Unbolt is about actually changing how newsrooms think and act.
Muck Rack curated tweets from journalists about the project.
Maybe I’ve missed some other commentary or reporting on Project Unbolt. If you’ve seen something else, please share the links in the comments.