At, portadistas play central role in merged newsroom


As editors in chiefs across Europe work to establish and maintain coexistence of digital and printing media staff, many are moving toward an ‘integrated newsroom’, a label fast approaching buzzword status.
The modus operandi of newspaper newsrooms of decades past has overturned.

Deadline structures, strict patterns of editorial oversight and the primary medium of delivery have been supplanted with continuous news creation, shifted in editorial revision processes and multimedia distribution.

This is old news; media outlets across the European Union are absorbed in making these changes. As they should be. The survival of newspaper newsrooms hangs on how they manage to evolve now.

Change management

Newspapers have opened themselves to broader audiences by way of embedding blogs and publishing online video. As such content delivery strategies have been adopted and the rhythm of information accelerated, newsrooms have had to acclimatise. One of the paths taken is the integration of online and paper newsrooms.

To establish presence and credibility among readers (and cost-conscious publishers), online newsrooms may have over the past decade operated autonomously. In the past three or four years, though, recognition that staff for online and paper platforms can and should operate together is prompting separated teams to become one unified news organisation.

Such a merger must not be labelled as “integration,” though, seen as simple architectural rearrangement of two different stories into one. This concept goes further and refers to the new dynamics of work and cooperation between journalists sharing a common space.

en Español

English-language dailies like The Guardian or The New York Times may have gone first, but major Spanish journals both in Latin America and Spain have followed suit.

The importance of this shift was cleverly spotted by the Argentinian journalist Alvaro Liuzzi. His interest in the subject triggered his Documental Multimedia de Redacciones online (Multimedia Documentary about Online Newsrooms). Alvaro collects interviews conducted in various digital newsrooms of Spanish and Argentinian papers in order to show what such merger entails. He concludes that each media outlet has to find its own logic and its own way of working. He suggests that “the most intelligent decision is to look inwards and evaluate internally the consequences that a process of that magnitude will have for each newspaper newsroom.”

20minutos, success story

In Spain the pioneer in making this shift was the free daily 20minutos (20 Minutes).

Three years after initiating the print and online integration process “it has successfully managed to find an optimum point that allows them to have two quality products without duplicating efforts,” Virginia Alonso, deputy editor-in-chief at, told the EJC.

Although paper and web editors at 20minutes share the same physical space and are constantly aware of the work their peers do, each writes for their own platform. The major task of coordination “is shared by the editors-in-chief of both print and online media, who also decide in case of overlapping,” Alonso said.

And while the paper and web teams work to different rhythms, planning of major issues “is also made jointly by both newsrooms.”

New newsrooms new roles

The digital information boom is not only changing the way newsrooms operate but also ushering in new roles for journalists in news organisations.

At, the “portadista” (Portada is Spanish for homepage) is a journalist who permanently controls and monitors the long home page of the site and to track the most popular stories.

“Our cover is enormously complex,” Alonso said. Not only for its length, but because it combines political and economic information with entertainment. Striking a balance without falling into frivolity or bad taste requires much expertise.

“That is why it has become one of the most important figures of,” she said.  Because the task of a portadista is an exhausting one, editors change out the people in charge every 15 days.

All willing for the change?

The perils of bringing together print and online newsrooms relate to how the integration itself is handled. Liuzzi gets it right when he states that “we should not fall into the typical differentiation of the journalist by the carrier they use.”
The aim is sort out how to do good news coverage and storytelling regardless of support level given. By the same token, Alonso remarked, it is of utmost importance for paper and online journalists “to know the needs and the rhythms of both media.” image

This promotes empathy and mutual understanding. On the other hand, she also believes that the editors “should be experts on the media they work for.”

Achieving these tenets might have been the key to success in the internal merging at 20minutos.

Never finished

Deadlines have taken a new meaning in merged newsrooms.

They have ceased to be the final moment in which a piece can be submitted, to become the final point at which a piece can be changed, thanks to the capability to constantly put information online.

The end result here can be an increased workload for journalists. It is hard to imagine a traditional, high-profile journalist accepting this reality in willing fashion.

This breed of traditional journalist is less likely to dive into Internet publishing, because online information is still deemed in some cases to be of lower importance or quality. It is more difficult to move these classical reporters to an area where they work mainly for the Internet, as such a jump also requires willingness to change and the adoption of new knowledge.

This knowledge is difficult to internalise and apply without initial acceptance of and appreciation for information flow online.

Images thanks to Xavi Pons/20 minutos, Virginia Alonso, Jorge París/