When COVID-19 shut down schools and offices in March, newsrooms were no exception. However, as things began to gradually re-open, a few newsrooms around the country decided to close permanently, with writers and editors working strictly from home.
The New York Daily News is one of them, as well as four other newspapers under the media company Tribune Publishing. It begs the question: can newspapers survive without a physical newsroom?
The Outlook editors reflect on this situation, with most preferring to work in an in-person newsroom.
“I personally do not like the idea of newsrooms closing,” one editor said. “I feel like I have learned a lot in the newsroom that I would not have learned in my own home… being alongside the editors in the newsroom has definitely improved my writing.”
The editor continued, “…it could make the field much more difficult. I feel like being in the newsroom puts things at ease, especially finding topics and such. The difficulties would include not gaining the insight and help from the other editors around you.”
An online newsroom can work, especially with today’s communication technologies like Zoom and Microsoft Teams. But it may also produce an abundance of roadblocks.
“The biggest loss involved in not having an in-person newsroom is the ability to share thoughts and ideas with ease,” one editor said. “Although Zoom and online meetings are safer alternatives to this issue, the feel and comfort of being in the same room as your colleagues is far more intuitive.
Another editor said, “Working in-person with the fellow editors has the added bonus of an extra set of eyes on everything we do. Many mistakes we make are caught by other editors checking in on one another, and although this dynamic does exist remotely, it’s still not as spontaneous.”
One editor noted the lack of in-person collaboration that results from an all-remote newsroom.
“The newsroom is also where interviews are held, layouts designed, phones ringing. Having had important story breakthroughs in the newsroom with other members, we were able to get to work right away on developing stories. Without all of that and journalists being forced to work remotely, I feel journalists will lose their competitive edge,” the editor said.
However, one editor would prefer an online newsroom, citing reasons such as commuting times and safety concerns.
“I think online newsrooms are the future of the industry and I support them fully, especially in situations where meeting in person is not easy.”
The editor continued, “I understand being there, working together and printing a physical paper yearns us some valuable skill sets, but working from home is safer, more convenient for these times and introduces technology that’s the standard of the industry we’ll be entering after graduation.”
A few editors have also noted that working on a newspaper at home limits distractions that may be present in a busy newsroom.
“I think a big pro to an all-remote newsroom is improved focus,” one editor said. “I tend to concentrate more when I am alone.”
Another editor agreed, “The only pro I can think of is the lack of distraction. Without the hustle and bustle of the newsroom, journalists might be laser-focused on the task at hand.”
However, this editor also addressed the possible risks that come with working from home. “…This also means adapting to the distraction of home-life,” the editor said. “Will journalists meet the same standard of work if they are in the comfort of home?”
A bustling newsroom is imperative to having a successful newspaper; this is where communication and efficiency thrive. It’s easier for writers and editors to collaborate when they’re physically working alongside one another—ideas flow, skills improve, and errors are caught quickly.
If other newsrooms follow suit in the future by closing permanently, as one editor puts it, “…journalism will be altered forever.”
PHOTO TAKEN BY Melissa Badamo