So there I was sitting on Gregor's bed a few weeks back looking at his bookshelf as you do when you are visiting a friend and your attention wanders...and I spied a book called What the Newsroom Knows: Managing Knowledge within African Newspapers. Now, one of the reasons I jumped at the chance to borrow this book was simply because there isn't much literature revolving around African newsroom management- well, none that I have found anyway and while the book was supposed to be a case study of the use of ICTs in African newsrooms, the use of digital CM systems and the internet as well as mobile telephony it did not disappoint.
I really wish that I had had access to this book when I was still running my own newsroom at Activate. I say this because in most of the case studies in the book detailed African newsrooms which had come up against the same challenges for copy flow within their production cycle- in other words, Activate was not alone in the problems we faced. Some of these problems were as mundane as having an incoherent folder system for content on the network and one newsroom was even running computers which had several different operating systems between them- thankfully Activate did not have these particular problems although the major problem we faced early on and one which dogged just about my entire career at that newspaper was the fact that our computers were not networked to each other or the printer...when they were working of course.
I must admit I was waiting for a case study of an African newspaper who still did things the old way in their newsroom- without computers I mean...this, surprisingly was not to be and most of the African newsrooms featured in the book had been making extensive use of ICTs for many years.
What also interested me was the way that knowledge flowed around these newsrooms, how different newspapers used their diary meetings and the way they approach archiving their past editions, copy and photographs. Many newspapers had actual libraries set aside for archiving purposes (and one newspaper filed everything away- including all press releases they didn't use! wow!)
All in all, the book opened my eyes up to the fact that, even in Africa, newsrooms have become places where the digital flow of copy is inexorably tied to knowledge management within the newsroom.