The coronavirus has closed newsroom offices. Some may never reopen.

Your Wednesday Poynter Report

June 10, 2020
Category: Newsletters

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When you think of newsrooms, you think of editors scrambling to meetings, reporters rushing in and out to do interviews, and the sounds of phones ringing and fingers typing.

But newsrooms don’t look or sound like that at the moment. And they might never again.

These days, because of the coronavirus, most newsrooms are dining room tables and living room couches and spare bedrooms turned into local, one-person news bureaus.

As time has gone by, and journalists have become accustomed to working at home and still putting out an excellent product, a question has emerged:

Are newsrooms  — the actual, physical offices — even needed anymore?

We will soon find out.

As I reported Tuesday, the McClatchy chain announced seven of its news outlets — including the Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald, The Charlotte Observer and the chain’s Washington, D.C., bureau — are moving out of their buildings for the rest of the year as reporters work from home.

The plan, for now, is to find new spaces next year. But it’s hard to imagine that plan is set in stone. Don’t be shocked if those newsrooms never come back to big offices.

And don’t be surprised if other news organizations — especially newspapers — follow that lead.

Many papers already were downsizing before the coronavirus. Working from home has only proven journalists can do good work remotely. Is it as productive as working in a newsroom? That depends on the journalist and the newsroom.

But many news outlets are going to weigh the productivity of their journalists against the cost of office space. Those big headquarters can be replaced by smaller offices just big enough for occasional meetings and planning. Or journalists can keep doing what they’ve been doing by meeting on Zoom and using local coffee shops if in-person meetings are required.

Big outlets — such as The New York Times — will return to an office someday, as will TV stations, which rely on state-of-the-art equipment. But outlets such as local papers? They might find the savings too good to pass up.

The coronavirus forced journalists out of their offices. Finances might keep them from coming back. Will it happen? For some, yes. But for all, it will at least be a conversation in the weeks and months ahead.

The problem with OANN

President Donald Trump sent out a tweet Tuesday morning that read: “Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur. 75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment. @OANN  I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?”

Where did Trump get such an outlandish idea? From this report on OANN — the conservative news network that floats conspiracy theories.

The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler reports that the reporter on the OANN story was Kristian Rouz. Last year, The Daily Beast’s Kevin Poulsen reported that Rouz, while working for OANN, has also been writing for Sputnik, a Kremlin news service that U.S. intelligence agencies said was implicated in the Russian efforts to intervene in the 2016 election on behalf of Trump.

Kessler’s story pokes all kinds of holes in the OANN report, which is no surprise considering OANN should not be considered a legitimate news outlet. So why mention it here? Because the president of the United States does consider it to be a real news organization. And his tweet had more than 145,000 likes as of Tuesday evening.

For a refresher on how OANN became a Trump favorite, check out last month’s story from Columbia Journalism Review’s Andrew McCormick.

White House winners

PBS NewsHour’s Yamiche Alcindor (Photo by Brent N. Clarke/Invision/AP)

The White House Correspondents’ Association has announced its 2020 journalism awards and the winners include journalists from PBS, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, The New York Times and ProPublica. Judges were retired CBS News White House correspondent Peter Maer, Arizona State’s Steve Crane, American University’s Amy Eisman and retired Associated Press White House correspondent Terence Hunt.

Yamiche Alcindor of “PBS NewsHour” was named winner of the Aldo Beckman Award for overall excellence in White House coverage. Doug Mills of The New York Times was awarded for excellence in presidential news coverage by visual journalists.

The Wall Street Journal’s Alan Cullison, Rebecca Ballhaus and Dustin Volz were awarded the Merriman Smith Memorial Award for excellence in presidential news coverage under deadline pressure for print. CNN’s story “FBI. Open the Door.” about the arrest of Roger Stone was awarded the Merriman Smith Memorial Award for excellence in presidential news coverage under deadline pressure for broadcast.

The Katharine Graham Award for courage and accountability went to ProPublica for “Death in the Pacific” — stories on collisions involving two Navy destroyers in 2017 and a 2018 Marine mid-air collision.

Capitalizing the B in Black

The Los Angeles Times and BuzzFeed News are the latest two news organizations that will now capitalize the B when referring to Black people. The Associated Press’ official style, for now, is to not capitalize the B. The National Association of Black Journalists has changed its style to a capital B and is requesting that AP follow in making the change.

NABJ’s director of communications Kanya Stewart told BuzzFeed News, “The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) has adopted capitalizing the letter ‘b’ in the word ‘Black’ when it is used as a proper adjective, describing a diaspora, community, group and the like — just as Caucasian, Asian, Hispanic, etc. are capitalized. Capitalizing the word properly recognizes the identity of Black people.”

Meanwhile, there is a little more to the Los Angeles Times story. Times reporter Esmeralda Bermudez tweeted Tuesday, “Dozens of @latimes journalists have been fighting for racial equity on multiple fronts for six straight days inside our newsroom. Our requests have gone unheard for years. This promise was sent to us by our editor moments ago:”

The note from Los Angeles Times executive editor Norman Pearlstine said, “We must hire Black and Latino journalists. Within the next two weeks we shall form a group to work on overhauling our hiring process. The global pandemic and the global financial crisis constrain our ability to make a hiring commitment by a specific date. We can commit, however, that the next hires in Metro will be Black reporters, as we begin to address the underrepresentation.”

Closing remarks to remember

NBC “Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt from George Floyd’s funeral in Houston on Tuesday. (Courtesy: NBC News)

NBC News’ Lester Holt was in Houston on Tuesday for the George Floyd funeral. He closed his “Nightly News” with these remarks:

“Throughout history, every movement for justice and freedom has had an indelible touchstone: a moment, a place, a face that etches it in our consciousness and defines why it’s worth shouting for and disrupting for. At today’s funeral, we watched as an artist onstage quickly re-created the face of George Floyd, cementing him as the icon for this moment, for this chapter of an old story. The people who filled the pews today, lined the procession route or marched in protest, yet again on the nation’s streets, celebrated the man, the face that now stands for hope for our fellow citizens who for far too long have been smothered by bias, oppression, and an uneven playing field. When America refers to this moment, it will say his name: George Floyd.”

Not sticking to sports

“Stick to sports.” That’s something I heard quite often when I was a sports columnist and wrote about social issues, such as when I showed support for Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem.

And “stick to sports” is something that ESPN regularly heard whenever some of its on-air personalities — such as Dan Le Batard and, back in the day, Jemele Hill — shared their political or social opinions.

ESPN always maintained that it welcomed conversations and opinions about politics and social issues when they intersected with sports and I always argued that they didn’t discuss politics as much as some complained they did. (The Twitter feeds of ESPN personalities are another matter.)

But now, ESPN has fully embraced the biggest story in the country — the death of George Floyd, police brutality and racial inequality. All of its talking-head shows — including “Get Up!” “First Take,” “The Jump,” “Pardon the Interruption,” “Around the Horn” and “SportsCenter” — are not only talking about these issues, but devoting much of their programs to it.

How could they not?

Rob King, ESPN’s senior vice president and editor-at-large of content, told The Washington Post’s Ben Strauss, “If it feels and looks different and looks personal, it’s because it is. At ESPN, we deeply care about the issue of fairness and equality, and the people we cover clearly share that point of view. That’s why this feels unique. This is a time when everything is heightened with so much uncertainty and feeling fear, but what you hear and see is about simple humanity. … What’s happening now, I can see it and hear it — this need to explain this sense of isolation within the African American community that is the source of so much pain.”

And, Strauss points out, ESPN is hardly alone as a sports outlet covering the issue of race. TV news, newspapers and sports websites all are embracing the story. As Yahoo NBA writer Vincent Goodwill told Strauss, “You can’t say ‘stick to sports’ right now because there are no sports.”

But even if there were sports, this story is too big for anyone to ignore, including sports outlets.

ESPN shakeup?

ESPN’s Trey Wingo. (AP Photo/Steve Luciano)

New York Post sports media critic Andrew Marchand reports that ESPN is mulling over changes that could impact Trey Wingo, co-host of “Golic and Wingo” — ESPN’s morning drive radio/TV show. Marchand wrote, “With Wingo’s contract up, ESPN has explored changing its national morning radio program of ‘Golic and Wingo.’”

Wingo is the former host of “NFL Live.” Marchand reports that current “NFL Live” host Wendi Nix’s future at ESPN is up in the air as she goes through contract negotiations. But Wingo might not return to “NFL Live,” either, because there is talk that Laura Rutledge is in line to take over that show.

If Wingo does not return to “Golic and Wingo,” what does that mean for ESPN’s morning radio? Former Mike Golic partner Mike Greenberg could return to radio (although not with Golic), in addition to continuing his role as host of the TV show “Get Up!” Other morning possibilities, according to Marchand, include Keyshawn Johnson and Max Kellerman. If any of that happens, there might not be a landing spot for Wingo, a top-notch and classy talent who should have a spot somewhere at the network.

Seems as if ESPN’s best option is to have Wingo continuing as a regular co-host on “Golic and Wingo,” the job he has been doing since 2017.

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Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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  • >> From this report on OANN — the conservative news network that floats conspiracy theories.

    Good thing the “real media” folks here never float conspiracy theories. Like Russia collusion hoax you promoted for years or any of the hundreds of other lies and attacks wrapped in “journalism”.

    You’re disgusting to attack people trying to do real journalism while you push fake narratives on repeat.