The scale of the furore surrounding Johnston Press’ implementation of a new content management system is understandable given the impact on jobs and working practices.

Having been trained in the new content management system I can say that Atex is set to change the workflow of the newspaper, largely doing away with copy banks which are squeezed into paper shapes. Instead, pages are commissioned in a more orderly and efficient manner. All of which sounds good in principle.

The big problem at Northeast Press –  the division of JP which runs dailies the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette, Hartlepool Mail and several weekly titles and freesheets – is that our entire workforce of 18 subs have been told their jobs have gone. On a more positive note it looks as if almost everyone facing that stark news has been reassigned to new roles or has taken voluntary redundancy.

But, being  selfish for a moment, I have a major concern about the new system in that it relies on content creators (usually reporters) filling out optional fields to ensure material is ready for the web. Under time pressure reporters are asked to attach meta data and allocate a section and web priority to stories they have just written. But under pressure do any of us – no matter how committed to the digital process – have the time to carry out optional tasks? Not always.

The simple fact is, the web is not optional.

I believe that making the web aspects of the process mandatory sends out a simple message – ‘we want a well-populated website’. It would then be up to managers to decide what content makes the cut and is shared to the web.

That said, even if I do face the mundane prospect of sifting through content to make it internet-ready, the alternative of continuing with a system which requires that all content is cut and pasted onto the web remains far less desirable.


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