Newsrooms are yet to abolish meetings or in most cases the phone on the desk. But messaging applications like WhatsApp are now common communication tools within newsrooms. And newer collaboration tools like Slack are gaining traction.
We spoke to three digital editors about some of the options for newsroom communication and collaboration and how they use them with their teams.
WhatsApp Messenger is an end-to-end encrypted instant messaging application that works over Wi-Fi or a data connection. The app is available on a number of platforms, including Android and iOS. It’s most recent and useful feature, launched in January 2015, is WhatsApp Web. If you’d rather type messages using a proper keyboard rather than your phone, go here to find out more on how this can be done on your internet browser.
Business Day’s digital editor Malgosia Kijko says WhatsApp is used by the digital team and across the wider Times Media Group.
How Business Day uses WhatsApp: We use WhatsApp to communicate with colleagues when not everyone is at the office at the same time.
The positives: It’s an easy to use app and only requires a feature phone with internet access to operate. Information can be communicated to your team of colleagues within seconds. Different groups for different purposes can easily be created. Pictures and videos can be sent easily for processing in a newsroom.
Examples of how it can be used: Communicating to your team that you are late for work, filing stories and pictures, notifying the relevant person that a correction needs to be made to a digital story.
The negatives: It can become quite intrusive and busy if you are part of a very active group.
Comment: A quick and efficient tool for reporting and communication in any newsroom.
Skype is a text, voice and video application that makes it simple to communicate and share experiences with colleagues. The application works on smartphones or computer or a Smart TV with Skype on it. Users can also try out group video, with the latest version of Skype. The app allows users to organize their contacts into groups.
Digital Editor at The Citizen, Charles Cilliers says there are various groups they’ve created for the office workflow.
How The Citizen uses Skype Groups: We use Skype groups almost exclusively for text messages, private messages between colleagues and for sharing links to stories that are either yet to be published and need quality checks or as references for colleagues.
Examples of how it can be used: We have a group for subbing stories, one for the main website and one for the Connect youth website. We have a group for general discussion that includes all digital team members for when there’s a big message to be sent. And there’s an admin group just for content up loaders.
The positives: You can download Skype on a smartphone and a desktop, it’s free, and most people already have a Skype name.
The negatives: Our sub-editor can’t mark the stories that he has already subbed.
Comment: Skype Groups does about 80% of what we need. With Skype Groups, one can also have group chats and give remote demonstrations using shared screens, which is what we have done sometimes when a service provider is showing us a new product and they’re not in South Africa.
Slack is a digital work space tool used for collaboration in organisations. Communication is done through channels, direct messaging and calls. Currently the application has a free option for teams who want to try out Slack for an unlimited time, but it also has paid options with more features.
HuffPost SA and Business Day already use Slack and The Citizen is migrating to it soon.
HuffPost SA Engagement Editor, Shandukani Mulaudzi calls Slack a professional version of WhatsApp with some of the capabilities of Skype, Twitter and Instagram.
How HuffPost SA uses Slack? Slack is perfect for an environment where workflow requires constant communication. Imagine opening one channel with all the information you need from everyone you need to communicate with instead of a million e-mails flooding your inbox.
Examples of how it can be used: It can be used for filing copy, sending images, sharing links, filing video and simply chatting about story ideas.
The positives: It’s fast, easy to use and its search, pinning and archiving functions make it simple for you to find something you may need to refer to later. You can tag people in channels if you’d like to alert them to something specific to them and Slack sends those notifications to you in case you don’t see them.
The negatives: Like with WhatsApp groups you could wake up to a million messages you need to sift through, particularly if you’re working in different time zones.
Comment: I love working with Slack. I actually hate having to go into e-mails about work-related matters because I find Slack to be more efficient. For a fast paced digital environment, it’s definitely the way to go.
What tools are you using to communicate in your newsroom? Please share these in the comments below, directly via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or join the discussions on our Facebook page.
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