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Friday, December 15, 2023

Reclaiming the Newsroom

It’s Time for Journalists to Make Their Return


It’s no secret that newsrooms countrywide are beginning to expect less of their staff regarding in person workflow. Although now, some outlets hardly even meet face-to-face at all — even when they are capable of doing so.

Traditionally, the newsroom is supposed to be a place of collaboration between reporters and editorial teams. While work can certainly be completed remotely in an efficient manner, all news organizations should push staff members to come into work — which benefits the outlet as a whole.

The overall efficiency of news organizations are in jeopardy, and a remote newsroom just doesn’t do the proper justice to those committed to working in the field. This is especially true for young journalists in need of editorial assistance and guidance.

Going into 2022, about 34% of news organizations were using a fully-remote or hybrid work model, with 57% still figuring out how to implement a hybrid-work day.

It’s time to get back to work.

The Boston Globe is one of the finest news outlets in the U.S., with roughly 282,000 digital weekday subscribers. They lead New England in coverage among daily papers. Reporters at the Boston Globe — which falls under Boston Globe Media’s ownership — are expected to come into the office at least three days out of the week in a hybrid work model.

CEO of Boston Globe Media Linda Henry strongly believes that in person interaction within the newsroom is an important aspect to the reporting side of the Globe’s team, and that it is imperative to the organization’s continued growth and success. 

She’s not opposed to some remote work however, as a handful of assignments have no need for communication with other staff members, and a couple days of work from home isn’t always a bad idea from her point of view — just not daily.

“I think that three days really works well. I think that it’s enough [time in the office] to really actually be together and be able to collaborate on ideas,” she said. Henry also claimed that early on in one’s journalism career, it’s crucial to be able to bounce ideas off of a team in person.

“If you have the opportunity to go into work and have conversations, I think it’s a really big opportunity. It’s important for our culture, and I think it’s important for the sake of the organization,” said Henry.

Kevin Moran is the executive editor of The Berkshire Eagle, and he too believes that working with a team benefits news organizations in more ways than one.

“I really do think that when you’re not in the same room with your colleagues, you’re losing a lot of momentum, a lot of energy,” Moran said. “And in the news, we know so many people, we know so many journalists who can work independently, but that’s the key to having a good news organization. By having journalists independently within a team, and when you come together as a team, that’s when you score goals and when you move the ball right.”

Seasoned journalist Mike Deehan of Axios Boston reports to the Massachusetts State House for a majority of his stories, as he has for many years. He has no physical newsroom to direct his focus to, though feels free in this aspect, as he’s experienced years of editorial meetings leading to wasted time from his perspective. But, he says it’s a necessity for young journalists to gain field experience.

“So much of journalism is kind of picked up from your peers, superiors or veterans in the field, and you just kind of glean so much from being around them and seeing how they act and react,” Deehan said. “So, yeah, I think anybody in the first decade or so of their career really does miss out when it’s [newsroom work] remote. You’re not learning nearly as much of the traditions and lessons that you could and should be.”

There’s also the mental health argument to be made: showing up in person, at least some of the time, can help to build daily structure and social skills — something crucial when thinking about interviewing sources, especially those within public leadership. This also helps in avoiding isolation and loneliness.

According to a study by the American Psychiatric Association, “Nearly two-thirds of people working from home feel isolated or lonely at least sometimes and 17% do all the time. More than two-thirds of employees who work from home at least part of the time report they have trouble getting away from work at the end of the day always (22%) or sometimes (45%).”

Clearly, human contact in the actual workplace can help to give reporters a sense of much-needed community. Even if working from home, going out to interview a source or two and then going right back to the comfort of home, doesn’t really guarantee the needed human contact in a given day to avoid the feeling of isolation.

It’s time for leaders within journalism to take a step forward, and make the push for less remote work. Even hybrid work days can prove beneficial for mental health. But, a career as a journalist, particularly among well-respected news outlets, just isn’t one that should become a position done from the living room.

In September of 2023, Jack Walsh took over as the managing editor of DCReport. With two years of newsroom experience, he specializes in national politics, breaking news and environmental sustainability. In addition to working with DCReport, he has also written for Boston Business Journal, The Capuchin and The Hippo Press.