“It will be better in the new building…”

“It will be better in the new building.” For anybody who has gone through a move at a television station, that is a meme with an eternal life span. Every question or concern can always and forever be laughingly answered with, “It will be better in the new building.” Hague

Computer down? “It will be better in the new building.” Donuts stale? “It will be better in the new building.” Management suck? “It will be better in the new building.” Photog forget to white balance? “It will be better in the new building.” Live truck driver snap-off a mast? “It will be better in the new building.”

But now, I really think the question for refugee newsrooms is, “Should there even be a new building?”

For years it has seemed likely that KING and KOMO were probably going to pick up and move, and sure enough – some moves seems to be underway. (As a side note, I thought all three should strike a deal and jointly operate out of the Weyerhaeuser building in Federal Way – LOL.)

Various local business publications report that KING/Gannett sold, or is selling 333 Dexter ($42-million) – and may be heading to the port-traffic-ensnared  Home Plate Center across from Safeco Field. I read that and my first thought was that I can’t imagine trying to run a newsroom out of SODO with Bertha, trains, trucks and games in the way. What a nightmare.

But in reality, I think the whole idea of “running a newsroom” is a little quaint. Every reporter, photographer, assignment editor and producer’s house can be a “bureau” now. So could six or eight well-placed (Oly, Tacoma, E. Pierce, Federal Way, East Side, Downtown, Snohomish 1 & 2) and cheap strip-mall locations with a little parking. With a good high-speed Internet connection and some robust meeting, chat, telepresence and collaboration tools – the idea of spending tens of millions of dollars on a designated “place” where people gather, regale each other in the morning meeting, and then disperse after eating a stale Tootsie Roll off of the assignment desk seems a little silly.

As for servers? Storage? Playback? Ingest? Two words: Quincy, Washington. (I admit some of this may be far-fetched – at this time)

But what about the traditional news set from which to deliver the days news? Even that’s debatable. A wheeling, bureau-driven, constantly updated and “online first” model might even finally kill the “news set.” Co-anchors might be joined via side-by-side monitors or good old double or triple boxes coming out of the switcher.

But apart from all my admittedly wild ideating, most fundamentally, even today – the idea of running crews in, just to run them out, so they can run back in again seems dumb – and like a recipe for burnout in this gridlocked town.

Laptops, wifi, bonded cell signals and file-based-workflows really make having to “be” somewhere – other than where a story is – kinda’ questionable. In fact, starting the day with your chess pieces well-dispersed really seems like  an advantage to me. Some smart mapping and planning could actually make for fewer logistical struggles – which in turn can clear some time for better journalism. That is by-the-way the trade off in TV news – and I’ve said it for years: Newspaper reporting is about gathering and packaging information, whereas TV reporting is about logistics… while trying to squeeze-in some journalism and storytelling.

Maybe the “un-newsroom” model could change that a little.

Again, I’m just a viewer, but my speculation is that our local newsrooms have probably been increasingly operating in this way in a sort of unofficial way, but I’m not sure there has been a formal commitment by any local management or their corporate owners (Tribune, Sinclair, Gannett, Cox) to officially start finding ways to abandon the proverbial ship when it comes to having a traditional “newsroom.”

Unfortunately, KING’s move (and this again is just pure speculation on my part as a mere viewer) probably came too quickly to really, really allow station management to take a deep dive into building the “un-newsroom” that I think we’re all probably heading toward. They’re being booted out maybe just a year or two too soon – perhaps just a little before something like this could really, really work.

But with a corporate mandate and some serious time to plan – the next station move here in Seattle may include thinking about a radically different organizational and physical structure.

I think such a change will soon be very possible as the digital tools improve, the supporting infrastructure becomes more robust, and as our ideas about a “newscast” where the elements of a rundown are assembled live at a certain time from a certain place – start to fade.

22 years after KIRO’s great experiment vaguely gestured at it, it really will be TV “out of the box.”