Enhancing the digital news production capabilities of the Johnston Press
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Central Lancashire
Unit of AssessmentCommunication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management
Summary Impact TypeEconomic
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Journalism and Professional Writing
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies
Summary of the impact
This case study shows how high quality research into the digital newsroom
and means of interacting effectively with the site users of Johnston Press
(JP) publications, together with the interactions of the researcher
involved (Jane Singer) with JP journalists, company trainers and senior
executives, had a significant effect on the company's ability to respond
effectively to some of the key changes that have swept through the news
industry as a result of the digital revolution. Singer's research and
knowledge exchange role with JP supported the decision-making and
change-management processes, helping the company reposition itself in a
multi-platform environment [text removed for publication].
Singer was a member of the Journalism team at UCLan between January, 2007
and the end of December, 2010. She has long been an active and
internationally respected leading figure in the academic debate about the
future of journalism in the digital era and her considerable body of
published research relating to this fed indirectly and directly into the
advice that she gave to the Johnston Press group during her involvement
An example of her work in a high profile industry non-refereed
publication is Singer, J. B. (2008). "Creating an Integrated Newsroom: The
Lancashire (UK) Evening Post," Trends in Newsrooms 2008: 87-90,
World Editors Forum / World Association of Newspapers. She also gave
numerous conference presentations which fed directly and indirectly into
the advice that she gave to Johnston Press. The following are examples and
give a flavour of her work: Singer, J. B. (2011, August). "Community
Service: Editor Pride and User Preference on Local Newspaper Websites,"
presented to the International Communication division, Association for
Education in Journalism and Mass Communication St. Louis, USA; Singer, J.
B. (2009, September). "Separation within a Shared Space: Perceived Effects
of User-Generated Content on Newsroom Norms, Values and Routines,"
presented to Future of Journalism conference, Cardiff, UK; Singer, J. B.
(2009, August). "Quality Control: Perceptions about User-Generated Content
among Local British Newspaper Journalists," presented to the International
Communication division, AEJMC, Boston, USA; Singer, J. B. (2008, May).
"Hearts in Highlands, Fingers on Keys: Online Discourse and 2007 Scottish
Elections," presented to Political Communication division, International
Communication Association; Montreal, Canada.
The key fact about Singer's research, which was the reason the Johnston
Press were enthusiastic about her appointment, is that it had mapped out
in advance and continued to map during her period working with the
company, many of the key issues and challenges that their move to digital
would face. Her research enabled her to feed into company discussions
ideas and recommendations that she had been developing for several years [text
removed for publication].
References to the research
3) "Shared Spaces: Discourse about the 2007 Scottish Elections on a
National Newspaper Web Site", International Journal of Press/Politics,
2009, Vol 14, No.4: 477-496.
4) "Quality Control: Perceived Effects of User-Generated Content on
Newsroom Norms, Values and Routines" Journalism Practice, 2010,
Vol. 4, No. 2: 127-142 (top five most-cited journal article, as of
Details of the impact
The impact of Singer's work on Johnston Press, one of the UK's leading
media conglomerates, is confirmed by [text removed for publication]
Development and [text removed for publication]. That impact is best
appreciated on two levels: that relating to specific local titles and that
relating to the group as a whole, including its strategic objectives.
[text removed for publication] confirms that because Singer worked across
the entire Johnston Press group she was able to help editors in
different regions share knowledge more easily and gain insights from what
was happening in the rest of the world.
Singer's research was translated into formats that the industry could
engage with via a number of different routes, which included presentations
to company executives, editors and journalists. These included, for
example: "Barbarians at the Gates? Journalism in a Shared Space," Invited
speaker, Johnston Press Daily Editors Forum, Leeds, UK, January 2009;
"Managing Change, " Invited presenter, Johnston Press digital editors
(regional groups), Preston, May 2008; and "User- Generated Content,"
Invited presenter, Johnston Press digital editors (regional groups)
Chesterfield, February 2008; Preston, December 2007; Edinburgh, November
At the overall company level, according to [text removed for publication]
her work had a considerable impact on every level of the
organisation's efforts to re-orientate itself towards the needs of a
digital news production environment. He observed that,
"Her research work gave us invaluable insights into the changing digital
world, the need for and route towards multi-platform content gathering,
production and dissemination."
Her direct, specific role in enabling the senior management to realise
and understand the need for and route towards multi-platform content
gathering, etc. is an example of a specific, crucial impact right at the
top of one of the UK's leading media conglomerates. He continued,
"As a result we were able to equip our journalists with the skills
necessary to meet the above challenges in areas of website preparation,
content gathering, social media and crowd-sourcing (this is yet more
specific evidence of crucial impact across the group from a key senior
Jane also spent time in our newsrooms observing and interviewing our
journalists to help us to identify issues and areas of improvement in the
We also used the material she researched and produced as valuable
learning documents - for our senior managers to develop strategy; our
editors to understand the changing marketplaces we were operating in; our
trainers to develop learning programmes; and our journalists to develop
their newsroom skills." (This is again very specific evidence of
crucial impact across the group from a key senior manager.)
This is by any standards an impressive list of crucial impacts on a major
player in the UK news media. In short, the significance of Singer's work
was that it provided the company with vital skills and understanding
relating to the needs of digital transformation at every level of its
operations. Very specific examples have been given above.
[text removed for publication]. In addition, the two detailed testimonies from
company managers provided above make it clear that the impact was
considerable and they have furnished specific examples of crucial impacts.
As far as the reach of the impact that her research-based advice
has occasioned, the various testimonies clearly establish that it
stretches through every level of the company's work and operations
and continues to affect the way that Johnston Press is practising
journalism within a digital environment down to the present. Fuller
versions of these testimonies are available if required and the managers
who provided them will also confirm directly the significance of the
The work that she started is being continued through the School's Media
Innovation Studio and the work of Francois Nel. The former currently is
working with Johnston Press as part of the studio's involvement in the
development of interactive newsprint and Nel has been actively researching
and publishing on the topic of the key predicaments of newspaper groups
such as Johnston Press within the digital environment. At the invitation
of groups such as Trinity Mirror, Nel has been passing on the insights
gained from his research (he has also worked with Singer in the past)
directly to key editors in the industry's continuing attempts to find
profitable and sustainable ways to do business across the range of
platforms now available.
Sources to corroborate the impact
Contact 1: [text removed for publication]
Contact 2: [text removed for publication]