Media - Making contact - How the newsroom works

To work with the media on promotional or marketing opportunities your community group needs to have some idea about how a media newsroom works.

Whilst there may be slight differences, most newsrooms function in basically the same way. This help sheet provides an overview of the workings of a newsroom in order to give you a better understanding of how they function.

What is a newsroom?

A newsroom can be defined as: "an office at a television or radio station or a newspaper where news is gathered and reports are prepared for broadcasting or publishing."

The newsroom is where the stories are gathered, written, put together, edited and assembled for the news broadcast, telecast or newspaper.

Who is in the newsroom?

The number of jobs and people working in the newsroom vary depending on the media outlet.  In smaller media outlets, at suburban weekly newspapers for example the newsroom will probably feature only a couple of journalists and a photographer. Sometimes the editor will be there, although in many suburban newspapers the editor has a roving role overseeing a number of newspapers in different offices.

In larger media outlets, such as metropolitan newspapers, radio or television, the newsroom is much bigger, with a larger staff of people. They can include:
  • Journalists/reporters.
  • Photographers.
  • Camera operators.
  • Sound and lighting technicians.
  • Editing room staff (where television and radio stories are cut and compiled).
  • Sub-editors (who edit newspaper journalists' stories and check them for any legal, factual or other problems before publication).
  • Receptionists and News Desk coordinators.
  • Archive or Library staff (sometimes)
  • Graphic designers
  • Editors or chiefs of staff - either in charge of sections of the media's coverage, or of its overall coverage.

How the newsroom works

Each newsroom has differences - they can be slight or significant.

Not only are there differences between newsrooms of similar media outlets (for example, different newspapers) but there are larger differences between, say, television and newspaper newsrooms.

Only by working with an individual media outlet and developing a solid relationship over time can your organisation gain a little more insight into how it operates.

Generally, a newsroom works along these lines:
  • Stories come into the newsroom - this can occur in a number of ways, some of which are:
    • Through tip-offs from contacts, or press releases
    • Through coverage of newsworthy events, activities and occasions.
    • From story leads followed-up by journalists.
    • From issues or stories the editors, producers or chiefs-of-staff themselves want covered.
    • From calls by journalists chasing up new angles on current stories.
  • As this pool of stories develops, journalists are either assigned stories by editors or, in some smaller media organisations, cover the stories themselves.
    • This is done either by attending the event or through phone or face-to-face interviews or the use of press releases.
    • At times they may use archival material, such as old photographs, footage or sound, which is stored in written archives or on computer.
  • At this time photographers, camera operators, sound and lighting technicians come into play.
    • In larger print media organisations, the visuals for stories can be organised through the photographic editor.
    • Often TV camera crews are assigned jobs through the editor or chief-of-staff after they have looked at the pool of stories.
    • In smaller organisations like suburban newspapers, journalists and photographers often liaise directly to organise photo opportunities and book photos.
    • Sometimes photographers and camera operators get sent out to do their job on site, while journalists stay in the office to follow up the story or conduct interviews on the phone.
    • Any graphics needed to accompany a story is organised and the work allocated to graphic designers.
  • Once photographers or camera operators return with their visuals the newsroom can become a frantic place, as items are put together and the stories are completed before deadline.
    • With electronic media, raw visual footage or audio ends up in the editing suite, where it is reviewed and the most relevant or newsworthy grabs are used to put together the story. Any overdubbing or re-recording also occurs at this stage.
    • For print media, photographs are loaded into a computer and saved.
    • At this stage any other graphic information needed is completed or almost completed and ready for use.
    • Meanwhile, the journalist spends time finishing their story before it is saved and sent to sub-editors.
    • At this time, particularly in larger newsrooms, editors, producers and chiefs-of-staff often meet again to review the story list and see if there are any new stories to include (or others to discard) and re-order them in priority for presentation in the newspaper or bulletin.
  • When stories or news items are completed, they are usually checked to ensure they are factually correct, make sense and adhere to any legal requirements.
    • Copy or check sub-editors (copy subs or check subs) will go through stories, particularly in newspapers, and often make changes to improve readability and ensure they are not libellous. Stories receive headings and photo captions are checked.
    • Lay-out sub-editors then draw the story, photograph and graphic elements together and lay them out through a computer on the page.  
    • In visual or broadcast media, production staff are responsible for ensuring tapes for completed stories are ready to be played in the right order as the bulletin progresses.
    • Competition for space or air-time can be fierce, with stories often missing the cut, or being cut-down, due to space or time restrictions.
  • Even at this late stage things can change if a big news story occurs.
    • Some stories might be cut back or even left out of the newspaper or news bulletin to accommodate any "late breaking news".
    • Those stories may then appear in a truncated form, or could be cut completely and never appear at all.

The information contained on this site is subject to change. Our Community will not be liable for any loss or damage whatsoever coming from reliance placed on all or part of its contents.