Why bridge roles are essential to a newsroom’s evolution

Condé Nast International’s Head of Knowledge Sharing takes us through the importance of hybrid roles and change management

Image taken at the 2017 News Impact Summit in Budapest

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As we were building the upcoming editions, we sat down with Federica Cherubini, one of the talented news innovators we have met on our three year journey. Federica joined our News Impact Summit and Academy in Rome last year. Today she talks with us about her role at Condé Nast International in London and shares her thoughts on some of the trends she is witnessing in newsrooms.

In your Nieman Lab prediction at the end of last year, you talked about the rise of bridge roles in journalism organisations. What makes them unique and how do you explain this trend?

I think bridge roles — hybrid roles that connect departments and act as translators, not of languages but of mindsets — are a product of the changes the industry is going through and how newsrooms’ workflows are adapting to them. I don’t think they are completely new either, there were already people working across specialities and combining different skill-sets, but they have started to become more central to how newsrooms and organisations generally function. I think they are now more in the spotlight because they are often instrumental to cultural change.

Federica at our News Impact Academy in Rome

Talking about emerging trends, we notice an unprecedented openness by journalists to share challenges, insights and ideas. Projects like our News Impact Academy have also been created to promote this kind of exchange. Is sharing really caring?

I couldn’t agree more. My job title is Head of Knowledge Sharing after all! Part of my work is encouraging and supporting collaboration across teams and countries, by finding ways to make this an embedded part of the ways we work.

What is the key element to succeed in this regard?

There is a strong component of internal community building. Ultimately I think that, as important as sharing information is, what makes the difference is the human aspect behind the sharing. Personally, I have always relied on the support of colleagues and mentors throughout my career and it’s been incredibly important.

As you mentioned, part of your role is to facilitate connections among Condé Nast International teams all over the world. Tell us a bit more about it.

I interact daily with colleagues who work across 11 countries and that means different languages, different backgrounds, different ways to approach topics and experiences. I act as a connector between projects, people, teams, departments, countries. Finding a global common perspective while respecting and enhancing local approaches is one of the most crucial elements of my work.

The topic of diversity plays today a central role in newsroom transformation. What has your position taught you about it?

First of all, diversity should be on top of every hiring manager’s mind. It doesn’t stop there though: I am lucky to be working in a team where different cultures and backgrounds are championed. Personally I think that valuing diversity starts, on an individual level, with translating the awareness of the existing differences into your behaviour.

New bridge roles, knowledge sharing, diversity. We have touched upon some of the positive trends in present journalism. On the flip side, what do you think are the main challenges the industry is facing?

Well, we are not lacking challenges, aren’t we? I think the overarching challenge for the news and media industry is to keep evolving and stay up to date with the changes — technology, business models, platforms’ algorithms, newsroom’s workflows — while remaining true to each organisation’s identity and core strengths.

And how do we do that?

We know by now that change is the new norm and experimenting is crucial, but it’s important to never stop applying strategic thinking to what we do and ensuring that our approaches are part of a coherent vision. I’ve been reading about so many “pivot-to-something” strategies that I don’t even know what it means anymore.

Your career in journalism developed in Italy, France and the UK, from WAN-IFRA to the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, and now with Condé Nast International. What are the lessons you have learnt and skills you have acquired thanks to this unique background that are most useful today to navigate this fast-changing environment?

All these experiences have given me the unique opportunity to gain a deep understanding of the global media ecosystem. I’ve visited newsrooms all over the world, talked to and learned from the best people in the industry. All elements that allow me to be optimistic that the industry is well equipped to face the wave of current challenges.


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