How Newsrooms Lost Their Homes

From The Poynter Report:

Mark Pickering, formerly a journalist at the Boston Herald, recently went looking for his old company’s offices. With some shoe leather sleuthing, he found them — on the fourth floor of an office building in suburban Braintree. Some outsize photos and a relief of the paper’s familiar newsboy logo were mounted in the hall.

But midday, midweek, no one was there.

The Herald is among the ranks of still-publishing newspapers and websites that no longer have an office for reporters and editors. A partial list: Miami Herald, New York Daily News, The Hartford Courant, The Morning Call in Allentown, and the Capital Gazette in Annapolis.

The Miami Herald is a McClatchy outlet, but the latter five are part of Tribune Publishing, acquired by Alden Global Capital for $631 million in a June 2021 auction. Disposing of real estate is a big part of the hedge fund’s cost-cutting playbook.

Alden exerted financial pressure on Tribune for 18 months before the sale. Most of the moves to abandon office space took place at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, when coming to work was considered a health hazard. With the rental expense off the books, return or relocation has gotten deferred indefinitely.

The Capital Gazette is a different case. Its newsroom closed after a gunman burst in and killed five staff members in June 2018. New offices were opened but closed again in 2020.

The lack of a physical office is not an insurmountable barrier to getting a daily news report together. But editors and reporters will say something important goes missing when there is no face-to-face interaction. Plus, community members are cut off from the newsgathering workforce.

Pickering wrote about his hunt for the Boston Herald newsroom for The Contrarian, a Substack newsletter (scroll to the second item). He told Poynter that for a follow-up, he will try to track down another outlet in Alden’s MediaNews Group chain: The Lowell Sun.

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