After a rough phase of destruction by the COVID pandemic, media companies are planning strategies to re-open their businesses. The bad news is that many of them don’t have an office to return.
The Tribune released a statement last week. They have decided to close their New York daily newspaper and several other offices at different locations. According to a statement provided by them to the New York Times, they would “reconsider their need for physical offices” as they are fighting the way through pandemic and “as needs change.”
According to Fran Wills, CEO of the Local Media Consortium, media houses aren’t just buildings; they are the landmarks, representing culture, heritage from centuries. Frank is an owner of around 4,000 memberships. These memberships include radio, newspaper, online-only news outlets, and TV. Frank added, “They are a big part of a lot of the downtowns in a lot of their communities.” The pandemic broke the backbone of the news industry.
Emily Bell, professor at Columbia Journalism School, tweeted last week, she stated that the closure “represents institutional weakening. The dilution of solidarity against power, the snuffing of a beacon,”
They are the much needed times for newsrooms and newspapers to action around the world, especially in the US. With an ongoing pandemic and rising anger of communities to end discrimination and upcoming elections in November, the US needs its media houses even more now, than ever.
However, media houses have lost the trust of their readers. A 2019-2020 Gallup and Knight Foundation poll of more than 20,000 Americans showed that the Americans no longer trust their media and have a negative viewpoint towards them. The numbers are even lower when compared to the poll conducted in 2017.
The summary of the report states, “Americans have not only lost confidence in the ideal of an objective media, they believe news organizations actively support the partisan divide.”
The biggest challenge faced by the industry is to maintain the real state that they have accommodated. With several heads to feed, it became difficult for the newspapers to sustain their accommodated newsroom, which was the finest venues, but mostly rented. Also, the decline of the trust of their audience has forced them to stay in low visibility. Now, they gradually try to step up on the ladder of consumer trust, to re-gain their reputation.
Although, the possibilities of media houses losing their trust with the audience even increase with them being in lower visibility. These times should be considered dangerous, the lower visibility might propagate a negative sentiment across the audience’s minds, as the industry work on its cost-cutting plans involving the evacuation of the real estate.
In 2017, The Dallas morning news downsized itself from the famous building “Rock of Truth”. However, they made a smaller iconic version of the monument. The new inscription on the glass states, “Build the news upon the rock of truth”. The new owner of the building states that they will preserve the exterior of “Rock of Truth”.
According to Wills from Local Media Consortium, “It would be beneficial for companies considering moving out of their offices to continue to have some sort of presence or some sort of way their landmarks can be preserved in their communities.”
Jeff Jarvis, a journalism professor at the City University of New York, thinks that this could be an opportunity for the newspapers to go back to their audiences. It will also promote cross-team collaboration and can be useful for sales teams which can spend more time with their audiences.
According to Jarvis, “Slack is a poor substitute for the sound of ringing typewriters, but you start to see the beginnings of that kind of office buzz being recreated.”
The factor of collaboration is not just limited to the sales teams and newsrooms. Even the local outlets are collaborating.
Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst at the Poynter Institute, stated, “Collaborations among formerly competing papers and other news entities have taken off like a rocket over the last few years.”
As an example, Story share launched in February by the AP, a tool that allows more than two dozens of newspaper to share their content plans and also helps them to republish each other’s stories. Nearly, 18 news channels joined hands in Florida to cover the climate changes happening in the states. These included The Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times.
However, journalism seems to be entangled in the cobwebs of old myths, and traits of the days of ink and paper. Journalism needs to break its chains and explore the possibilities of ideas and innovation.