Here are some tools and apps to make newsroom collaboration a lot easier

By Melody Kramer

In our quest to document every known newsroom collaboration, we’ve been asking newsrooms around the world what tools they’ve used to make collaboration easier and more efficient. Melody Kramer has compiled some of those tools into a list below to make it easier for YOUR future collaborations. (And if you’ve worked on a collaborative project or know of one, please tell us about it! If you haven’t heard, we’re building a database.)

Here you go — consider this our first-pass at building a collaboration toolbox:

You need a way to chat in real-time
Slack — The chat program is already used by many newsrooms to work on daily tasks and collaborate across internal departments. Slack has several features that make it amenable to collaborative work: if you have a paid account, you can create a private workspace specifically for a project and invite single-channel guests into that space. A new feature — Shared Channels — also allows two or more organizations to quickly set up a shared space to work together, and work from your primary Slack space. Slack also integrates with Trello, GitHub, Dropbox, and Asana which makes it easy to share updates from your team’s progress. Alternatives include gitter.im and Discord — but these are used primarily by developers and gamers, respectively.

You need a way to share screens and video chat
Appear.in/ — There are many video conferencing programs — Google Hangouts, Zoom, join.me, and WebEx were all mentioned — but we wanted to point out a neat little video conferencing tool that makes it incredibly easy to collaborate without much effort. Appear.in/ allows anyone to set up a private room almost instantaneously, simply by adding any word or words to the end of the url after a backslash. Up to 8 people can be in a free account at one time. And if you need a way to quickly jump on a chat with another newsroom, this is an easy way to do it. (If you need to record calls, another program would likely be more suitable.)

You need a way to collaboratively work on documents or code
Google Docs or Etherpad — You’ll need a way to collaborate on documents, spreadsheets, and possibly presentations. Most newsroom collaborations use the Google Drive suite. Etherpad is useful if you’re taking quick notes on a call, or quickly need to set up a shared space. If you’re working on code with multiple people or organizations, GitHub allows you to create both public and private repos, and people can collaborate on issues, tasks, and pushing code.

It’s helpful to have a shared task list
How do you manage a project across newsrooms? You can use a shared spreadsheet, but many newsrooms are turning to project management software like Trello, Asana, JIRA, and Basecamp to manage projects and tasks.

It may be helpful to have a shared database
The Membership Puzzle Project recently used AirTable to collect membership information from almost 100 organizations. We’re also using AirTable to collect information about collaborative projects.

It may be helpful to have a tool that connects other tools together
Zapier and IFTTT join lots of different apps together, and allow you to automate some workflows. For example, you could set up Zapier to notify Slack every time something happens on Asana, or you could set up Zapier to put something in your CRM every time someone fills out a form. If you find yourself completing the same task over and over again, these tools may make it easier to automate that task so you can focus on other efforts.

You can find more tools and platforms on the Collaborative Journalism website. And if you’ve found a tool helpful that’s not listed, let us know: info@centerforcooperativemedia.org.


Do you get our NEW collaboration newsletter? If not, you can subscribe by clicking here.

Want to connect with other people interested in collaborative journalism? Click here to join our collaborative news Slack team!