During the Coronavirus epidemic many newsrooms around the world have moved to remote working. While journalists are generally used to independent working, there are still a few things that are important to consider.
There is a great risk that communication between people working in the newsroom may get worse.
This is why it is incredibly important to pay even more attention to making sure that everyone in the newsroom not just aware of what they supposed to be doing on the day-to-day basis but also have the bigger picture: your editorial plans, long-term projects, audience figures and reaction to your stories, short and long-term strategy as well as the biggest challenges you face as a newsroom and as media business.
This can be achieved by making sure that everyone can and should participate in the Morning and weekly planning meetings. Different newsrooms use different techniques:
- Some allow people to dial and listen in into their editorial meetings even if they are not expected to contribute.
- Some write up summaries after meetings every day and send it to all staff.
- Some editors record a quick video update and distribute this video to journalists via emails or messaging chats.
It is important that people have a chance to talk not only to their editors but also to each other – exchanging ideas, contacts, and just to support friends and colleagues.
Chats like WhatsApp work well, however, make sure you follow the following rules:
- Have separate work and “fun chats”, don’t send jokes on work one – keep it to the point and professional.
- Don’t create work chats with too many people added – they get crowded and confusing. It is better to have separate chats for each department/programme and then one for managers who can disseminate information.
Hopefully, your Newsroom moved easily into remote working regime with your journalists being able to post on the websites from home, Radio and TV presenting programmes from their living rooms and accountants sorting out salaries remotely.
However, this may not be the case, so here are a few tips how to make sure you can organise your technology.
Most staff members will either have a work smartphone or a personal smartphone (again, check in with team members as to what technology they have available to them) so this is the time to be making the most of collaboration apps like such as WebEx, Huddle, FaceTime, WhatsApp, Zoom etc.
Allow for some trial period – figure out what means of communication and remote working work best for you: SKYPE or ZOOM. Once you decided, stick to it. It is easier to monitor and support one system than many. Send everyone instructions on how to install it and communication rules (muted mic, no silly pictures, security measures etc).
If needed, run a webinar for your team on how to use specific software. If you can, invest in upgraded (not free version) as it will save you time and money in the long run.
Make it clear to journalists producing multimedia content from home what formats and standards you expect. A short style guide with examples will help.
If you haven’t had Risk Assessment forms in the past, now is a good time to do it. It doesn’t have to be long – just a short check list will do.
The questions you may want to ask:
- Where are you going for the story (can you do it remotely)?
- What are potential risks
- How are you going to mitigate them? (Equipment, keeping distance, having disinfecting wipes?)
This will focus your journalists on safety and will allow managers to make better deployment decisions.
Make sure that people in your newsroom with underlining health conditions have a way of alerting you confidentially and there is a way to shield them from the unnecessary risky assignments.
Last but not least – support your staff:
Now more than ever, you need to show empathy to team members by seeking to understand their personal situation and asking what can be done to help in your capacity as a manager, colleague and even friend. Remember that safety andsecurity need to take priority over everything so begin your check-ins by asking team-members how they are
today and listening carefully to their response. Acknowledge the challenges each staff member is facing and share how you are getting along too.
If you can, check in with your direct reports daily, if possible, do a daily (or twice a week) non-editorial team meeting. Try to speak at least once a week with team members individually. Whilst we are all getting used to a new normal across the world, there may
be differences in the realities each team member is facing, from juggling childcare with working remotely, buying food for the family, caring for vulnerable people, suffering from potential COVID-19 symptoms or dealing with isolation. Ensure you’re checking in not just on a work-focussed level, but also from a personal perspective to see how people are doing.
- Use video capability to connect to your team members where possible so you can see each other’s faces, as this increases trust and engagement more than audio alone.
- Show people your new workspace using your camera, acknowledging the potentially challenging setup of dining table, window ledge or bedroom working and encourage your team to do the same. Introduce your children as fellow colleagues if you can’t prevent them from running into the room and participating in meetings!
- Use team check-ins to share good news stories, such as successes and small wins.
Need to learn more on working remotely ? Here are two other articles by Zoya Charles :