Moving the Newsroom: Post-Industrial News Spaces and Places
By the early 2000s, the majestic old building that had housed the Philadelphia Inquirer since 1925 was very roomy for its dwindling staff. By 2012, it was simply way too big. What was once considered the most modern newspaper plant in the world now may become part of a hotel, entertainment, and casino complex. The newsroom’s operations relocated to a former department store a year-and-a-half ago after rounds and rounds of layoffs.
Ohio’s largest newspaper, The Plain Dealer, moved from a newsroom in Cleveland built with grand ambitions—constructed in 1999 to hold 1,000 journalists—into a leased office space in a mall/office building/transit center above the Hard Rock Café. The Columbia Journalism Review, which reported on the story, received an email that epitomized the wounded morale of the paper’s remaining staff. It stated, “This used to be newsroom.”
The original home of the Gannett chain, built by Frank Gannett in Rochester in 1928, is now for sale. Rochester’s Democrat & Chronicle will move to new headquarters by mid-2014. For 3.5 million dollars, it will trade 135,000 square feet for a more modest 42,000, shrinking to just under a third of its former real estate size.
Both The Des Moines Register and The Miami Herald said goodbye to old buildings staffers loved and moved into open office spaces with great lighting, designed for continuous breaking-news operations. They’re what news executives promise offer a digital window into the future of journalism. These architectural innovations, and the move from old to new, they argue, provide a chance for reinvention.
Across the industry, we are seeing a wide-sweeping trend of newsrooms uprooting themselves: A.H. Belo, Gannett, MediaNews, Advance, GateHouse, Cox—small newspapers and large ones alike are listing their newsrooms for sale. Everyone from the private owners of the Syracuse Media Group, to the owners behind the Boston Herald, has moved buildings. This is a countrywide, size-wise trend1 Joshua Benton at Nieman Lab helped compile this list, though I do not have a specific example for every newsroom from every chain on my list, simply because there is no central list other than my own. 1 that begs the questions: Is this just one more slap in the face for newsrooms now at their lowest staffing levels since the 1970s? Is it one more sign in line with the circulation declines and revenue slides that signals the inability of newsrooms to get their financial models right? Or perhaps, instead, there is another story to tell here, one embedded with the opportunity to think about a physical move as a way to shed the past and look forward to the future of news through tactile readjustment.