If you work in or operate a newsroom, you likely understand the importance of time management. Stories can come in at a moment’s notice, and being able to report on these in an accurate and timely manner is critical. Outside of breaking news bulletins, being able to manage your time working on longer form or human interest stories can help elevate a piece to its fullest potential. However, due to the often-chaotic nature of news distribution, it can be difficult to remember the importance of time management.

That is precisely where the Maestro concept can come into play. The Maestro concept is a productivity technique coined by University of Kentucky professor Buck Ryan that aims to streamline the editorial process in newsrooms. The way that it does this is by envisioning a newsroom as akin to an orchestra. Each member of the orchestra has their preferred instrument that they are skilled in, and they succeed as a unit through practice and collaboration. With a conductor, or Maestro, overseeing the orchestra, every musician comes together with their separate instruments to make beautiful music.

Instead of instruments, journalists can bring specific skills to a project, such as stellar editing or a keen eye for design. When they all come together under the leadership of a Maestro, great multimedia stories can be created in a timely and organized manner. The Maestro concept can be a critical benefit to your newsroom, and it is surprisingly straightforward to put into practice for any size newsroom. If you want to break away from the assembly-line approach of hard news, this is a great start.

The first step to implementing the Maestro concept is to bring your team together in a brainstorming session. Encourage them to pitch ideas for stories that could set your publication apart from the competition. From there, you and your team should work through these pitches together and figure out how best to approach the project. Bring up questions that readers might ask in response and use those to influence the direction of the piece. 

From there, begin dividing tasks and responsibilities between project members. Pinpoint who the writers, editors, graphic designers, or photographers are, and give them roles for the project that best fits their needs. For example, if the project involves covering a big sports event happening in town, assign reporters and photographers that have experience writing about sports. By assigning these tasks based on skills and experience, journalists will be able to effectively divide their time between run-of-the-mill hard news and this larger project. 

This is where the time management component of the Maestro concept comes into play. By setting that strict divide between hard news and more editorial projects, you and your team could be able to better focus on all of your assignments.

Through this work, determine who will oversee the rest of the project. This person will be considered the Maestro, and is often an editor or manager. What is crucial to remember is that the Maestro must be available to provide substantive feedback and advice at any point throughout the duration of the project. Not only that, but they will also be responsible for dividing tasks between project members based on their skills and setting doable deadlines.

From there, it’s time to work on the project. Make sure that everyone involved in their specific part of the story and that they are following the established deadlines. Work within the framework of the four W’s: who, what, when, and where. The graphic elements of the piece, such as photographs, should answer the who by showing readers who is at the center of the report. Editors and writers should then work together to ensure that the other four W’s are adhered by through analyzing the headlines, photograph captions, and the actual text.

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Make sure someone puts everything in a single document that is clearly divided between tasks and project participants. This will help to avoid the conveyor belt mentality of hard news journalism, which often just focuses on the facts of a story and nothing else. This type of mentality will not work for longform, multimedia stories. If you need some inspiration for such a document, check out this worksheet from journalism educator Tim Harrowers

Once each individual aspect of the project is complete, bring the team together to ensure that they all work together to tell the cohesive story you want to tell. Make any adjustments if needed, and remember to answer the potential reader questions outlined during the brainstorming phase.

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