Print operation requires a deep level of collaboration, as this work process is more verbal and requires personnel presence
Amid this coronavirus pandemic sweeping over the world, the news needs to be published online every hour, and the newspaper needs to be brought out every day. So setting up a process to allow our journalists to work from home was a difficult but crucial task.
We at Dhaka Tribune have been doing it for a month now, and we have been successfully carrying out our print and online operations from home. I write this to share my experiences with the news industry so that others can build on my experiences, and come up with better solutions for the industry in this time of crisis.
In journalism, communication is the key, and internal communication even more so. This was the biggest challenge to implementing the home office process.
Print operation requires a deep level of collaboration, as this work process is more verbal and requires personnel presence. Working remotely, during the content planning and organization for the print edition, calling the necessary people everytime you need them is very troublesome, especially during page layout.
What is needed is an always-on voice channel where people can join without having to call anyone up when they start their shift. For this, we are using the Discord app. It is the best solution for team communication, and we are carrying out the verbal communication among the news editors and the members of our graphics team through this.
The upsides of Discord is that 1) an incoming call will not disrupt conversation with the graphics operators, 2) anyone who needs me can see which voice channel I am in, drop by and have a conversation, and 3) It also offers all the text messaging solutions offered in Slack, along with file exchange options.
With this app, you can create the vibe of working in an actual office with separate voice rooms for separate departments.
Another challenge of bringing out the paper remotely was seeing what the graphics operators were doing. This was simply tackled with the use of screen sharing softwares like Anydesk, Teamviewer, etc. These apps also give you the ability to control the connected computers, so an editor can perform copy-fitting through screen-sharing. In my experience, I have found that Anydesk works better with our internet connectivity standards. These apps also offer voice communication, but enabling that disrupts the screen-sharing features often.
For sharing documents and image files, we are using Google Drive for its ease of collaboration and continuity. Files from emails can easily be saved to shared Google Drive folders. During editing, sub-editors and reporters can work on the same file simultaneously for better collaboration. Using Google Drive also sidesteps the security concerns that may arise from giving widespread access to office servers.
For online operations, emails can go only so far, and what we needed was a proper channel for instant communication. For this we have been practising remote communication among the personnel, mainly reporters and sub-editors, through group chats and call conferences to make the communication process more efficient.
This enables reporters to connect easily with the sub-editors from the spot and file breaking news instantly. This also reduces back and forth communication as everything has a written record in the messaging apps.
The downside is when too many people are conversing, the messages can get tangled and lost. Any non-essential discourse needs to be prohibited on these official communication channels. But casual conversations among the team members are also necessary to keep up the team spirit, so it is good to have a separate text channel for light, non-work-related conversations.
Towsif Osman is the Production Editor at Dhaka Tribune.