Newsroom Dynamics

Looks like the BBC are having a few problems with their big move to New Broadcasting House. The irony of designing an open-plan newsroom and then issuing instructions on where and how people move is seemingly lost on them. MediaGuardian have got hold of internal documents outlining some new ground rules, including this little snippet that amused me:

BBC journalists have been briefed on “newsroom etiquette” in preparation for their move and given maps of where they can and cannot stand in their capacious new work place.

And here is the map!

tvc moving around


Make sure you don’t stand near the studio windows. Be aware of places where you could be on air, and make “the most of huddle zones, casual chairs, teapoints, meeting rooms.” A great example of how an open architectural ethos actually impedes the everyday nature of news. Sounds like the BBC wants to condition it’s newsroom to show a projected image of how it actually functions, rather than the reality. Maybe because that reality is little less sanitized and smooth that it wants to appear to the general public to be. I thought news-making was meant to be messy, frantic and unpredictable?

Another interesting point I’ve taken from this is that this open ethos has pushed a job previously reserved for architectural and structural features (walls, doors) back onto the individual. Walls and doors serve particular functions. They block, separate and restrict as well as open, shape and dictate. In their absence, inhabitants are forced to self-govern actions. A ‘Please don’t stand here’ sign replaces a wall. A ‘You could be on air’ message replaces a partition. They don’t govern quite as authoritatively as structural features so the BBC’s journalists are forced to internalize these restrictions and govern themselves. Whether it works or not is another issue altogether.

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