10. Organizational systems

The pace of journalism is set by the news. And the news never stops. Journalism knows no respite. In order to perform this role, journalists must be in good health with a good work-life balance, they must be able to learn to work fast and must be able to keep a cool head. Whether they work alone or in a large newsroom, journalists need to organise their work in a way that is compatible with time constraints.


  1. Respect length limits.An article that is longer than expected is a waste of time for everybody: the person who has to shorten it, the person who has to typeset it, the person who has to print it and the person who has to publish it.
  • Consider the initial version of your article as a draft, then read over it again, making sure to delete any superfluous information in order to comply with the limits imposed, to the nearest line and word.
  • Deleting superfluous information from a text involves removing anything that is not necessary for its comprehension: adjectives, adverbs, repeated definite and indefinite articles, coordinating conjunctions, etc.
  • If you want to save 15 words and around a hundred characters, instead of writing: “Two thugs with devilish faces rendered unrecognisable by the old tights that they had pulled over their heads as a precaution, have kidnapped Mark Pesos”, you would write: “Mark Pesos has been taken hostage by two masked individuals”. Complying with the constraints always improves the quality of the work delivered.
  1. Respect the deadlines.The late delivery of an article is stressful for all involved and results in: sloppy proofreading, hasty corrections, the risk of content errors, complicated production and difficulties in publication.
  • Tell yourself that meeting the deadline set for submitting your text is even more important than the content of the text. The deadline is looming, so I will stick to the essentials when writing my text. I can always add to it at a later date in another edition. It is better to deliver a short and incomplete version on time than it is to submit a long and complete version too late.
  1. Respect your coworkers. Working in a team is not easy when the team is made up of very independent personalities used to writing alone. This requires specific qualities: knowing how to listen to your coworkers, knowing how to share information, knowing how to understand other people’s thought processes and knowing how to accept compromise. The daily production of news is incompatible with drama queen antics. It requires the orderly division of daily tasks.
  • Keep in mind that the best soloists are not necessarily the best conductors. Whether they are acting as director, editor-in-chief, section editor or deputy editor, journalists performing a supervisory role must know how to manage, motivate and lead a team, and how to occasionally delegate some of their responsibilities. This is something that can be learned.

A tried and tested recipe: introduce the principle that no member of a team of journalists is entitled to their hierarchical position.


Self-discipline is a sine qua non requirement for good quality collective output. But not all ways of organising the journalist’s work produce the same results. The best methods are those that provide the journalist with a means to have a complete hold over his or her daily production.

  • Artisanal organisation

Two levels: one gives the orders, the other carries them out. All of the power is held by a single journalist, generally the owner of the newspaper. He or she acts as the director and editor-in-chief, recruits a few multi-skilled journalists and divides the tasks as he or she sees fit.

Advantages: a homogeneous, close-knit, supportive and friendly team.
Disadvantages: paternalistic exercise of authority, risk of falling into a routine, little room for promotion, lack of pluralism in the content.

  • Pyramidal organisation

Four levels: one for the CEO, one to give the orders, one upper level to carry them out and one lower level to carry them out. Responsibilities are centralised at the top. A head journalist appoints an editorial director who selects several assistants whom he entrusts with running departments or sections made up of multi-skilled journalists.

Advantages: an orderly, cohesive, disciplined and efficient team.
Disadvantages: risk that power will be abused, single-mindedness, uniform content, a lack of contradictory discussions, unambiguous editorial expression.

  • Diamond-shaped organisation

Three levels: one ensures control, one gives the orders and the third carries them out. Responsibilities are decentralised. The CEO and the editorial director delegate them to the section heads who are free to decide who they hire and what they publish. Each editorial team, made up of multi-skilled or specialist journalists, works independently.

Advantages: diversified content, healthy internal competition, high performance, high degree of expertise.
Disadvantages: working behind closed doors, too much specialisation, lack of cross-cutting thinking, elitism.

Useful reminder: systems are only as good as the people behind them.