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Newsrooms evolve amidst the pressures of 2020

November 9, 2020 | By Rande Price, Research Director – DCN @Randeloo

It’s an unprecedented time for individuals and industries. The forces of 2020 continue to reshape the media business — from a radical shift in work environments to calls for racial equity in industry ecosystems. Journalists find themselves in a unique position as they both report on these stories while being personally affected by them.

A new report from the Reuters Institute, Changing Newsrooms 2020, offers insight into today’s evolving news industry. The findings from leading researchers, Federica Cherubini, Nic Newman, and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, are based on survey data analyses from 136 news industry leaders across 38 countries.

Remote working is here to stay

The pandemic forced many industries including the news media to adopt a work from home policy. And more than half of the news leaders surveyed report (55%) that their organizations are working more efficiently from home. However, at least eight in 10 respondents have concerns about employees maintaining relationships and communicating effectively.

Interestingly, nearly the same number of  leaders (37%) think that they are more creative working remotely as those who do not (42%). Nevertheless, more than half of respondents’ report (54%) that they would like to go to the office a bit less often than before coronavirus. A full 21% state that they’d like to go back far less often.

News leaders report that their newsrooms are already planning future changes to their physical workspace. More than half of respondents’ (55%) state that their news organizations are looking to downsize their office space. Many think that a hybrid model could be a positive and practical solution for publishers with added flexibility and cost savings. Only 25% of news leaders report that they want to get back to an office environment.

Building a diverse news culture

The focus and attention on Black Lives Matter added external pressure on news organizations and their leaders to examine and address the lack of diversity in the newsroom. To date, 80% of news leaders report seeing progress in gender diversity. However, only 43%, see improvement in ethnic diversity.

News leaders state that publishers are doing a good job in junior staff diversity (84%) and a fairly good job with mid-level staff (59%). However, only 37% think their companies are doing a good job on diversity among senior level management.

Publishers are working to transform practices in the newsroom. They are now tracking newsroom diversity, both gender and ethnic, to include news sources, contributors, and interviewees. Importantly, ethnic diversity is cited as a top priority in the news industry.

Attracting and retaining talent

Publishers have been under pressure to transform the news media building new digital businesses and revenue models, particularly over the past decade. These companies need high quality teams to effectively manage and evolve their business strategies. More than half of the news leaders (53%) believe in their organization’s overall ability to attract and retain talent.

However, their confidence is much lower in recruiting and retaining talent across a few key departments. These include product, audience, and design (23%), data and insights (21%), and technology (18%). Further, in hiring new talent, publishers want to attract younger employees. It’s important to note that younger talent often looks for a highly competitive salary and demands high standards in a company’s culture and values.

The transformation of the newsroom’s work environment and social culture offers an opportunity for positive change. It may present challenges and potential disruptions. But its critical for publishers to stay the course to produce the necessary structural shifts in the news media.

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