Indian papers need training, multimedia tech, says report

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Newsrooms in India are light on skills and technology, according to a new report.

In what is described as "the first comprehensive study " by the WAN-Ifra's World Editors Forum South Asia Chapter, the top issue identified is lack of editors, including multimedia editors.

A survey in early 2019 of key editors and journalists across newsrooms in South Asia, formed the basis of the report, 'State of Newsrooms in South Asia'. Respondents came from more than 35 large and small newsrooms - both print and digital - operating in various South Asian languages.

The report found the most pressing issues (in order) were:

- Shortage of editors (including multimedia editors);

- The need for upgrading editing skills;

- Shortage of reporters and reporting resources;

- Lack of technology in the newsroom:

- Breaking news 24x7.

Among key findings were that most publishers preferred to break news first on the web or digital media, but there was also a strong preference for the print media as a vehicle for some stories - rare interviews, features, investigative stories, analyses and the like.

Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Google AMP have become an important part of the news ecosystem and more than 80 per cent of the publishers who participated in the study said they used them to disseminate news to a wider audience. That said, newsrooms still experience "some amount of discomfort" while using digital platforms to disseminate news, given that the issue of ownership vs reach of the content remains in question.

The report found fake news was a major concern in the newsroom. Almost all publishers made some effort to control it; many newsrooms had formed separate desks for verifying news, and some had tied up with external fact-checkers.

While online and agency sources have become common in the digital news reporting ecosystem, most newsrooms which participated in the study lay great emphasis on ground reporting.

While about 40 per cent of newsroom staff were women, the number of women in senior executive roles was very low, although newsrooms claimed they planned to add more women over coming years.

Almost all respondents said they trained journalist staff regularly, either internally or by registering them for external courses. But only one-third mentioned that they trained their journalists in multimedia skills.

More than 75 per cent of respondents said they used a content management system, and almost half said they planned to have a new system in the coming year.

The report also presented the ideas being followed to improve productivity in newsrooms.

Chairman of the South Asia chapter of the World Editors Forum Mukund Padmanabhan finds the shortage of multimedia-skilled editorial staff "not entirely unsurprising" given the new challenge newsrooms are newsrooms are grappling with.

"Apart from flagging the kind of problems and concerns that editors have about today's newsroom, the report provides a glimpse into what lies in store in the future," he says.

WAN-Ifra South Asia managing director Magdoom Mohamed says the report addresses a long felt need. "Its findings would help to focus industry attention to the pressing issues and look for collaborative solutions."

WAN-Ifra member organisations can download the report free; it is available for purchase by non-members.

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