Trello in the newsroom: using Kanban style boards

After getting along quite well with  post-it note style Kanban boards at work, I started using Trello. I mainly use it for organising to-do tasks, but I’ve also been thinking how it could be used elsewhere, for example in the newsroom.

The Kanban board deals mainly with workflow and in its simplest form this could be: to do > doing > done. This simple workflow can also be translated into news production in a similar way: proposed stories > stories being done > published stories.

A newsroom can be a busy place – here at the University of Sheffield we run news-days ranging from groups of 15 students doing TV or radio news to up to 80 students doing cross-platform news (TV, radio, online, newspaper, magazine) – so keeping on top of what’s happening; who’s doing what,  work-in-progress and what’s finished is crucial. Using Kanban boards such as Trello could be a real asset to a newsroom.

Organisation

One great feature of Trello is the emphasis on the team. It lets you add different users that have more or less full access to the boards; this could be every journalist in your newsroom or just the editors. This means that all users are able to add and edit their cards (to-do items), so working the system is evenly spread out.

Lists of lists

Good organisation can be accomplished using lists. The first list we  build is the basic workflow list:

Trello workflow list
A suggested Kanban workflow for a newsroom

 

We can then start to populate these with “cards”: the cards could simply be stories to cover that day:

Trello list
A list of proposed stories could be quickly added in the morning news meeting.

In my example above, a list of proposed stories can be made in the morning. From there the editorial team can decide which stories to use that day by dragging the cards into the next column.

Cards can be easily edited and we can assign people to them e.g. journalist, photographer, camera crew etc.

Cards can be moved along to different lists, and people can e assigned.
Cards can be moved along to different lists, moving along the production workflow and people can be assigned.

The example above shows a story that has been moved to the next column in the workflow by simply dragging and dropping. I’ve assigned a journalist to this story and used tags (the yellow and purple bars) to indicate which platform it’s for (online and TV).

A simple click on a card lets you edit it.  Here you can add many things:

  • a due date
  • assign a user
  • comments
  • check lists
  • labels
  • attachments
Editing a card
Cards can be edited quickly to add extra information

So by adding comments you can keep track of what’s happening within a story, e.g.  the assigned journalist could add:  “Gone to Crookes to interview councillor. Taken stills cam and audio recorder”.

Mobile

Trello works on a browser as well as iPad,  iPhone and Android devices, so can be used virtually anywhere.  The image below shows a story with an image attachment uploaded from a smartphone, but this could be an audio file or text written as a comment.

An image was uploaded to a card using the smartphone app. Up to 10MB can be attached to each card using the free version.
An image was uploaded to a card using the smartphone app. Up to 10MB can be attached to each card using the free version.

The workflow

A card can be moved across to different columns depending on where it currently is in the workflow. This gives the newsroom an overview of work-in-progress, work to do and work done.

Here we can see an overview of the work being done in the newsroom.
Here we can see an overview of the work being done in the newsroom.

Easy to use

Trello is extremely easy to use on all platforms, so it’s not much of a burden to integrate with existing workflows.

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