The reporters write in Google Docs using a very simple markup to indicate a headline. Editors use Comments for notes about accompanying images, points to check and so on. These notes don’t appear in the text of the document and therefore cannot be accidentally published.
There’s a simple push to WordPress (put story into an action folder called ‘Send to Publish), which assigns the headline to the headline field and text to the text field and so on. The web editor can open the story in WordPress, pimp and preview, then Publish. The Comments made by editors are pulled in too, so the web editor can see what images are available etc.
They also wrote a script to allow a print headline to be written at this point (in a WYSIWYG editor that displays a space and font size commensurate with newspaper column widths). The story, complete with print headline, can then be pulled straight into InDesign giving the paginator the opportunity to size the box to fit the text (or sub the text to fit an existing shape).
This is a workflow designed for a relatively small operation – William says the BDN has “about 75 newsroom staff, and we handle just a little under 1,000 stories a week. We have two weekly newspapers we produce as well” – and one I assume enjoys fairly consistently fast broadband.
[Back in 2011] If you asked a few hundred journalists in a large organisation in New Zealand to write everything directly into a Google Doc they’d probably look at you as if you were asking them to stab themselves in the arm with a fork.
New Zealand’s slowish, variable internet speeds can make working in the cloud a hugely frustrating business, more so when the vicissitudes of internal networks are added to the mix. [Probably still true in 2014.]
That said, this is a nice piece of work and it’s a good thinking exercise to imagine how it could be scaled to various degrees.