ONA Weekly #368: Lessons For Managing A Hybrid Newsroom

By on July 14, 2021

Lessons for managing a hybrid newsroom

As COVID-19 rates go down in parts of the world, employers are starting to ask workers to return to the office. The wrinkle in this plan is that many workers don’t want to give up remote work, and so flexible remote work policies and hybrid offices are becoming more common.

Quartz CEO Zach Seward recently shared lessons from one month of managing a hybrid newsroom. (Quartz is allowing everyone to work from home indefinitely, but keeping its office space in New York for those who wish to come in.) For him, one of the big takeaways is that, in practice, “hybrid” actually means “remote.” “Even when you’re in the office, the work itself is still best done with the assumption that everyone is remote,” he writes. Plus, some of the necessities of keeping an office—like having hot desks instead of designated ones—leave people cold.

Learning to effectively manage a hybrid newsroom is crucial, especially because the decision of whether to come into the office versus work from home is not random. Research suggests that, among college graduates with young children, women want to work from home full-time almost 50 percent more often than men do. Failing to make remote work seamless can unfairly penalize this group.

Though remote or hybrid work is new for many, some have been experimenting since before the pandemic. At ONA16, Nasr Ul Hadi, Mandy Jenkins and Rebecca Eisenberg hosted an event on Keeping It Together When the Newsroom is Everywhere. Here are some of their best tips for managers, combined with insights from the International News Media Association’s 2020 report on The Potential Impact of Work-From-Home on Newsrooms

  • Keep the technology gap and equipment equity top-of-mind. That means being sensitive to differences in access to WiFi and other tools. Make sure people have the technology they need and build on-boarding processes that include training in various remote technologies. Don’t leave it up to less tech-savvy employees to figure it out on their own. 
  • Have clear remote work policies. Even a simple, written teleworking policy can be helpful so people know what is and isn’t allowed. Have an internal wiki that is frequently updated with processes. This should have an organization chart and other representations of structure and roles so everyone knows who everyone else is, even if they never run into each other in a hallway. 
  • Be mindful of work-life balance and hours. Put in writing clear availability expectations for employees. 
  • Set expectations for how to communicate. Don’t leave people hanging about whether they should Slack, email or call. Set consistent standards on how to communicate when something is urgent versus non-urgent. Use phrases like “Feel free to ping, feel free to ignore” and [RRR] = Rapid Response Required, etc. 
  • Find a way to make sure people get to speak up in meetings, especially when everyone is on mute, or some people are in the same room and some are calling in. This can mean someone using an emoji to “raise their hand” or typing a keyword in a chat, and someone else keeping track of the queue and orchestrating the conversation. 
We’re always on the lookout for helpful resources and tips. If you have other examples to share, please reply directly to this email.

Nominate digital leaders for the 2021 ONA Community Award

The ONA Community Award, now in its fourth year, honors an individual (or small team) that has made a significant contribution to digital journalism. The selection committee is looking for a person or team, often working behind the scenes, that has helped foster a strong sense of community or created systems that help journalists do their best work. It’s a wonderful opportunity to spotlight under-the-radar efforts to strengthen digital journalism.

Last year’s winner was Doug Mitchell, founder and project director of NPR’s Next Generation Radio. Other past honorees include OpenNews director Erika Owens and the Journalists of Color Slack administrators.

Please submit your nominations through July 29 at 11:59 p.m EDT (3:59 a.m. UTC).


Fireside Chat With Associated Press and Expert.ai

On July 21 at 10 a.m. EDT (2:00 p.m. UTC), join expert.ai’s free “fireside chat” with AP for an in-depth conversation about how natural language understanding and machine learning are being used to support news content discovery and distribution. Register today.

Two more chances to learn to forecast news trends

There’s still two opportunities to learn how to forecast the future of news with Amy Webb’s Future Today Institute. On August 9 and September 13, participants will learn to analyze how technology will affect the future of journalism and gain tools for analyzing risk, predicting emerging trends and setting priorities within a newsroom. These valuable skills can help ensure that a publication can weather the ups and downs of the journalism industry—and even spot opportunities to innovate and thrive. 

These 90-minute workshops cost $99 each and cover similar material, so pick the date that works best for you. Slots are limited to 25 attendees for each session.

Stat of the week

Of the $19.6 billion in media grants made by U.S. foundations since 2009, $1.1 billion came from community foundations, according to a new study by Media Impact Funders. That money was spread across more than 8,000 recipients by 461 funders.

Important dates

Career opportunities

ONA’s Career Center is an excellent resource for jobs, fellowships and internships in digital journalism. Recent postings include:

On our radar

The radar is now open for suggestions. Have you written or read a piece lately that would benefit others in journalism? We’re interested in sharing insights on trends, how-to guides, lessons from a project and other inspiration for innovation in digital journalism.

Thanks to these creators for making their images available:

Join as an ONA member or make a donation to help sustain ONA’s mission to inspire and support innovation in digital journalism. If you’re looking to promote an event, product, job opening or other opportunity, explore options to reach the ONA community.

We also rely on philanthropic and corporate support. Contact Chief Strategic Partnerships Officer Jessica Strelitz at jessica@journalists.org to learn about the many ways to invest in our mission.