Newspapers Without Newsrooms

For decades, newsrooms were the center of the lives of newspaper reporters and editors. Even when out on assignment, they would return to crowded, noisy, cavernous newsrooms, where stories were edited and sent to production and distribution, often in the same building. Now, at more and more papers, the newsroom is gone entirely, victims of the cost-cutting meant to keep them alive.

Tribune Publishing Co. (NASDAQ: TPCO), one of the largest newspaper chains in the United States, will close some of its newsrooms permanently. Among those will be the New York Daily News. It has been operating in America’s largest city since 1919. It was once among over a half dozen large newspapers sold successfully in New York. The only competition left are the New York Post and the immensely successful New York Times, owned by New York Times Co. (NYSE: NYT).

The first reason newsrooms were closed recently is the spread of COVID-19. Once that cleared newsrooms, it became obvious to owners that people could “work from home.” Even some reporters and editors of The New York Times have not been asked to return.

It is still too early to tell whether it is critical that reporters and editors be in one place to produce their best work. Cuts in newsroom staffs already mean their best work as a whole is behind them. The shuttering of newsrooms may undermine the future of newspapers more, even if it saves what has become very precious money.

Dozens of newspapers have closed this year. Maybe staffs working from home would have saved enough money to keep some of them alive longer. However, most of those that closed would have done so anyway. Ultimately, disappearing newsrooms barely will slow the end of newspapers in many places. The industry is too far gone.

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