United States: Concerns voiced as news outlets close physical newsrooms

More than a dozen newsrooms of titles still being published have been closed across the US, as publishers cut costs in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. The IFJ has hit out at media bosses for failing to consult newsroom unions and urged news outlets to avoid decisions which negatively impact journalists' ability to maintain quality coverage.

Journalists working in a newsroom. Credits: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP

On 12 August Tribune Publishing announced that five of its publications will move out of their offices to save money. The affected newspapers are the Daily News, a tabloid based in New York, the Capital Gazette and the Carroll County Times in Maryland, the Morning Call in Pennsylvania and the Orlando Sentinel in Florida. They will continue to publish, but their current newsrooms are permanently shuttered. Parent company Tribune Publishing left open a return to other physical offices when the pandemic situation improves.

Many journalists reacted with disappointment to the decision. Morning Call journalists Stephanie Sigafoos and Jennifer Sheehan explained to CNN Business that this would negatively affect the working culture. "Take the people out of a newsroom, you take some of the soul of the paper," Sigafoos said. Others like Carrie Melago of the New York Daily News and Capital Gazette reporter Olivia Sanchez voiced their discontent on Twitter:




The closing of newsrooms comes at a time when the Covid19 pandemic has increased the financial struggles of many newspapers. While recognising the need for some titles to reduce costs to save jobs unions fear such moves come at the expense of journalists and journalism. The NewsGuild-CWA describes the trend of closing newsrooms as "very troubling" because newsrooms are the physical center of any publication and essential for the collaboration on which news production relies.

In July, seven newspapers belonging to the McClatchy publishing company vacated their newsroom. Reporters at the Miami Herald (Florida), the Charlotte Observer (North Carolina), the McClatchy D.C. office, The State in Columbia (South Carolina), The Modesto Bee (California), the Merced Sun-Star (California) and the San Luis Obispo Tribune (California) will not return to their offices any time soon.

President of the NewsGuild-CWA, Jon Schleuss said: "It appears that Tribune Publishing, which is controlled by a hedge fund, decided to stop paying rent, leading to a lawsuit from their landlord. At the same, Tribune has been pocketing more money and sending it to the executive suites. The journalism—their bottom line—is suffering. This is another sign that we need local ownership of the news."

IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: "We are aware of the impact that the pandemic is having in the media industry and support moves to save costs without sacrificing jobs or quality. However, newsrooms are an essential part of media production. We urge media companies to refrain from cuts which damage the ability of journalists to serve their local communities and deliver quality news. Those companies who have already shuttered newsrooms should create a roadmap to restore physical newsrooms when the pandemic situation improves."

For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 16

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 146 countries

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