“Given how few young people actually read the newspaper, it’s a good thing they’ll be reading a newspaper on a screen.” – Bill Gates
It’s hard to imagine the Philippine newspapers—national and regional—operating without a newsroom.
In the News Express, the first regional newspaper I had the privilege to work with in March 1988, a tiny room usually reserved for dentists in the second floor of the Saint Elizabeth Building on Valeria Street in Iloilo City, had served as our first “newsroom.”
Except for the two old typewriters, bond papers, and other office supplies, there was nothing tantalizing from the naked eye to be found in that modest newsroom except that it symbolized the newspaper’s heart and soul.
When publication technology was still in infant stage, the newspaper and the newsroom were like siamese twins—inseparable.
It’s in the newsroom where reporters rush from the field and spend time beating the deadline, drafting stories to be modified and sanitized by editors.
No decent newspaper can roll off the press without first undergoing a major critiquing and fine-tuning from the editorial think tank inside the newsroom.
A newsroom is to the newspaper, TV network, and radio station what the altar is to the chapel. It’s the reporters’ and editors’ sacred territory and no politician, or any news subject for that matter, can easily gain access to unless he is a controversial public figure invited as a guest in an off-work bull session with members of the editorial board usually during the candidate’s hour in the election season.
Lately, as reporters learned to work remotely owing to the pandemic-motivated lockdown and social distancing, major newspapers have adopted belt-tightening schemes as a matter of economic survival.
This has happened—or is happening—, believe it or not, to one of the world’s leading newspapers based in New York City.
And it can certainly happen to the newspapers in the Third World, especially if the pandemic will prolong and the global economy will collapse as a result.
The New York Daily News, officially titled the Daily News, an American newspaper based in New York City and founded in 1919 as an imitation of the British Daily Mirror, is about to become a newspaper without a newsroom.
Daily News was the first U.S. daily printed in tabloid format and it reached its peak circulation in 1947, at 2.4 million copies a day.
Tribune Publishing, which has owned the 101-year-old tabloid since 2017, confirmed on August 12 that it will shutter the paper’s newsroom in downtown Manhattan permanently later this year and has no plans to return.
The New York Post reported that the company insisted it will keep a print edition of the paper alive, noting that its reporters and editors have been working remotely since the pandemic started in March.
They will reportedly be given until Oct. 30 to collect their belongings from the office.
“Out of an abundance of caution we do not anticipate having employees that can work remotely coming back into the office for the remainder of the year and into 2021,” a Tribune spokesman said quoted by the New York Post.
“With no clear path forward in terms of returning to work, and as the company evaluates its real estate needs in light of health and economic conditions brought about by the pandemic, we have made the difficult decision to permanently close the office.”
The spokesman added, quoted by the New York Post, that “today’s announcement relates only to the closure of the physical office at 4 New York Plaza. We are not ending print editions.”
The company also reportedly said it is shutting down its offices for the Capitol Gazette in Annapolis, Md.; the Carol County Times; and the Florida office that houses the Orlando Sentinel.
The paper’s most famous newsroom was at 220 E. 42nd St. which is still known as the Daily News Building, even though it had not housed the paper since the late 1990s.
The building, especially its exterior, was used as a stand-in for the fictional Daily Planet in the first “Superman” movie starring Christopher Reeve in 1978.
It was then moved to a building at 450 W. 33rd on the far West Side, which had only one nearby bar called Farrell’s.
In another cost-cutting move, then-owner Mort Zuckerman moved the paper to its current location in 2010.
Alex P. Vidal, who is based in New York City, used to be the editor for two local dailies in Iloilo./WDJ