Herald’s newsroom in Doral is built for modern technology

06/04/2013 6:57 PM

06/04/2013 7:16 PM

South Florida is the best news region in the country. But how we cover all that news has changed dramatically in the past five years as traditional media and social media blend to bring information to readers the way they want it.

No longer do the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald newsrooms worry only about tomorrow’s newspaper. Now there’s Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and our Web and mobile sites that demand to be fed multiple times a day.

Fortunately, the Herald’s new home in Doral is tailor-made to keep up with the demand as well as refocus our efforts. The new newsroom is built for modern technology, a backdrop for journalists who use smart phones and digital cameras to better cover breaking news, politics and sports for the 1.5 million readers who depend on our content online and in print each week.

At the center of it all is the Continuous News Desk, the nerve center of the newsroom.

At the CND, it’s the job of reporters, editors and producers to get breaking news to our readers in a flash by tweeting it, posting it on Facebook and featuring a few paragraphs on our home page as stories develop.

With reporters and photographers from both newsrooms — as well as WLRN-Miami Herald News radio — covering the community, 26 large screen televisions, a police-scanner service and partnerships with CBS4 and Univision 23, the CND is ready for anything.

The goal is to get it first, get it right and get it out to our readers, said Managing Editor Rick Hirsch, who led the newsroom’s entry into the social media world.

“Reporters today need to share what’s happening on their beats on Twitter, break news on our website and write newspaper stories that not only say what happened,” Hirsch said, “but what may happen next.”

And both newspapers are breaking ground on that front. Earlier this month, our efforts on interacting with readers on Twitter were lauded in an article published for Nieman Journalism Lab, a project of Harvard University.

Author Nikki Usher, an assistant professor at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs, who spent several days in the Herald newsrooms, wrote that she was pleasantly surprised that “at the Miami Herald actual people man Twitter — breaking news by hand, interacting with readers, and having a genuine public conversation over the main @MiamiHerald Twitter account, with its 101,000 followers.

“Aside from Twitter, the Herald is making ample use of its Facebook account, posting new stories once an hour and relying on feedback from the 47,000-plus audience for stories and tips — and as an extension of the Public Insight Network pioneered by American Public Media,” Usher wrote.

The Public Insight Network (PIN) is an online community of more than 13,000 sources who have agreed to share their insights with the Herald.

While on-the-ground reporting remains the same as always, the way we disseminate the information has changed. A decade ago, a reporter on a big story would rush to the scene of a fire or a murder and return to the office to write a story for the next day’s newspaper. Now journalists are expected to do more.

"We have worked and trained hard to incorporate social media as part of our reflex reaction in time of breaking news,” said Teresa Frontado, el Nuevo Herald’s senior editor for online and production. “Every member of the team, from reporters and editors to designers and photographers, is expected to tweet about news and events and use Facebook to interact with readers.

“Our online producers also are on the lookout for reactions and feedback from our readers so we can incorporate them into our coverage,’’ she said. “News is always a team effort and with social media we have made our readers part of our team, with thousands of them providing tips, perspectives and new angles to our stories."

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