As a business-to-business (B2B) publisher primarily, Reuters’ main audiences are people working for financial companies, who interact with stories and news updates through products such as desktop terminals and specialised data feeds.
They make up 60 per cent of the company’s revenue, with the rest derived from the reporting and multimedia content the international news agency licenses to publishers all around the world, which is why Reuters has taken steps to incorporate new technologies in its newsrooms in order to keep up with industry demands.
In recent years, the organisation has focused on developing new products for its financial reporting and multimedia side, using technologies such as 360-degree video and automation for video and data, and it has also trained Reuters journalists on multimedia practices.
“Back when I started more than 20 years ago, things such as equipment were allowed to get old,” Sarah Edmonds, general manager, Europe, at Reuters, told attendees at the WAN-IFRA International Newsroom Summit in London today (21 November).
“Nowadays, the working practices, the software, the hardware, are often confined to a metaphorical bin before the plastic smell has worn off.”
Nowadays, the working practices, the software, the hardware, are often confined to a metaphorical bin before the plastic smell has worn offSarah Edmonds, Reuters
The large availability of raw financial information has changed readers’ demands and expectations from financial reporting, she explained.
Reuters has developed a suite of tools internally, to automate the process of gathering news and data to allow its journalists to focus on the kind of things computers can’t perform, such as building relationships with sources and providing reporting that looks beyond the surface.
The suite includes: Live Data, a tool that gathers real-time information, performs calculations and “puts numbers into prose”, thus making the job of a market reporter easier; FastWire, which automatically supplies the relevant metadata to a piece; and Leap, which translates keywords into multiple languages.
Reuters also has developed a beta version of a platform called News Tracer, where reporters can get tips on breaking news early by identifying collections of related tweets and using an algorithm to assign posts a confidence score to determine how likely they are to be true.
“Readers want less of the ‘what’ and the ‘who’, they want a lot of more of the ‘why’ and ‘what’s next’ and they want us to interpret and interrogate this information,” Edmonds said.
The newsroom has also moved from “reporting the news agenda to setting it”, she added. For example, the organisation’s polling team does this by contacting sources to get fresh insights related to market moves or news events, instead of waiting for external research to come in, which allows them to “capture the sentiment in a snapshot”.
“We are able to poll on anything from interest rate decisions and foreign exchange rates to breaking news, such as the referendum or airport security in the event of an attack.
“One of the things we were able to do was to correctly peg the impact of Brexit on the pound.”
Reuters has also doubled down on data to produce interactive graphics, a format popular among financial clients and publishers alike.
In August, Reuters partnered with semantic technology company Graphiq to turn some of its text output from the newswire into data visualisations, which news outlets can customise and embed on their own websites for free.
Journalists have been encouraged to rethink how they perceive data and facts when structuring a story, so now they can collaborate with designers in the newsroom to sketch and develop graphics, instead of approaching them as an afterthought.
To leverage the presence of its 2,500 journalists worldwide, Reuters has tried to “break down the silos” in the newsroom by providing reporters and bureau chiefs with training across mobile journalism, photography and news graphics.
“We have the benefit of having journalists on the ground, so we need to train them to think graphically and get involved, as opposed to leaving it to another team,” said Jane Barrett, global multimedia editor at Reuters.
One year ago, the organisation launched a mobile journalism training programme and software to encourage reporters to become more comfortable with shooting video and images on their mobile devices.
It’s a way of live-editing people, both those with experience and those who aren’t video experts, when they are out in the fieldJane Barrett, Reuters
When a journalist starts recording a video on their device, the file is automatically encoded and transferred to a server, allowing editors in the newsroom to contact the correspondent in question and ask for follow up information or materials.
“We wanted to make it as easy as possible to get pictures, footage and sound back to the newsroom as soon as possible, particularly in breaking news,” said Barrett.
“It’s also a way of live-editing people, both those with experience and those who aren’t video experts, when they are out in the field.”
Reuters photographers have also taught staff members about the basic ethics and grammar of photography, such as framing and what makes an image valuable, to equip them with the skills necessary to file images alongside their written reporting.
Barrett pointed to an example where only one Reuters member of staff was able to go on a trip to cover an event in Tehran, so one of the organisation’s photographers trained a reporter to allow her to cover the story both in writing and visually.
Even though she had no prior experience, 22 of the images she shot on the trip made it onto the agency’s newswire.
“Changing people’s mindsets and behaviours can be done by investing in skills and technology, and those two things should be done in tandem, like the pedals of a bicycle,” Barrett said.
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