Local journalists who’ve been working remotely for months because of the coronavirus pandemic will stay that way for awhile, and some will lose their newsrooms entirely.
In a memo obtained by Poynter on Wednesday, Baltimore Sun publisher and editor-in-chief Trif Alatzas told employees “we do not anticipate returning to our Sun Park offices until some point in 2021 at the earliest” and that newsrooms in Annapolis, home of the Capital Gazette, and Westminster, home of the Carroll County Times, would permanently close.
“Staff of those offices will have workspace available to them at Sun Park once it fully reopens. We remain committed to our in-depth community coverage, and we will work with managers and staff to ensure that we are providing readers with the news and information they expect from our publications.” He continued: “These decisions were not made lightly or hastily. Amid a pandemic that prevents us from safely returning to our offices for an undetermined period of time, the company has decided to formally close those workspaces.”
The staff of the Capital Gazette left its previous newsroom after a gunman killed five colleagues in 2018. Following today’s news, Joshua McKerrow, a photojournalist who covered the shooting and later took a buyout, tweeted that in the Capital Gazette’s current newsroom “the walls of the office at The Capital are covered with memorials to the staff murdered in 2018. Letters from around the world. Handmade tributes. Drawn portraits of Rebecca, Wendi, Gerald, Rob, and John. A Pulitzer Special Citation. So much more.”
On Wednesday, the Orlando Sentinel, also owned by Tribune, announced it was leaving its downtown building, where it’s been located since 1951. New York Times reporter Marc Tracy reported that Tribune’s New York Daily News is leaving its headquarters. Robert Feder reported the Tribune will close the Aurora Beacon News’ offices. And the Associated Press reported Tribune is closing The Morning Call in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
In February, pre-pandemic, the Tribune’s Virginian-Pilot sold its newsroom in Norfolk and moved to Newport News to share space with the Tribune’s Daily Press.
- Seven McClatchy newsrooms are moving from their buildings and will work remotely until the pandemic ends. They include newsrooms in California, Miami, Washington D.C., Charlotte and South Carolina. In a previous statement to Poynter, McClatchy said “The pandemic has accelerated our organization’s need and ability to work remotely. This has led us to look at new ways to find cost savings, including the exit of real estate leases, which our Chapter 11 reorganization allows. We will exit leases in seven locations and focus our resources where it matters: on saving jobs and delivering on our mission of producing strong, independent local journalism for the communities that we serve.”
- The Staten Island Advance is selling its building and moving to a new one. It’s owned by Advance Publications. “Nothing good has come out of the coronavirus crisis we are living through. Nothing. But we have learned a lot. One is the ability to work outside an office setting” Advance executive editor Brian J. Laline wrote. “It’s the way reporters should work.”
- The Chillicothe (Ohio) Gazette will move from its headquarters. It is owned by Gannett. The Gazette reported “The coronavirus pandemic has prompted the Gazette and its parent company to ask most employees to work from home to reduce spread of the disease. During this time, the news organization has not used its office space but was continuing to pay rent.”
Poynter asked a spokesperson for Tribune how it plans to cover Annapolis and Westminster once the pandemic ends with no physical newsroom. Max Reinsdorf responded with this:
“Our journalists have covered these communities with great reporting and in great detail over the last few months, all while working remotely.”
Kristen Hare covers the business and people of local news for Poynter.org and is the editor of Locally. You can subscribe to her weekly newsletter here. Kristen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @kristenhare.