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Are Publishers Reopening Offices Too Soon?

Posted on Sunday, June 28, 2020 at 9:14 PM

In the news: A new Covid-19 case in a South Carolina newsroom is raising critical questions about how safe it is for editors to return to their offices.

Staff at the South Carolina Post and Courier recently returned to their desks despite widespread concerns about the safety of the workplace. Those concerns, it turns out, were not unfounded: This week, reports Maxwell Tani of the Daily Beast, management notified employees that there was a confirmed Covid-19 case in the Charleston office.

“The Post and Courier has ... eschewed the work-from-home ethos embraced by many media companies and newspapers, which has aggravated some staff who were concerned about potentially coming into contact with coronavirus in an office space,” says Tani. Even worse, he says that an editor was recently fired for allowing an article critical of the newspaper’s decision to reopen offices to be posted on the paper’s Facebook page.

The strategy comes as several states are experiencing major Covid-19 surges. The city of Charleston itself has become an outbreak zone in recent weeks, a source of anxiety for Post and Courier staffers required to return to work. Read more about the controversy here.

Also Notable

AP Style Update: Capitalizing “Black” and “Indigenous”

In response to recent antiracism protests, the AP is updating its style guide to capitalize Black when “referring to people in a racial, ethnic or cultural context,” reports the Associated Press. In addition, the AP will capitalize Indigenous “in reference to original inhabitants of a place.” Read more about the AP style updates here.

Note from the editors: Editors Only has also adopted this style change.

Overcoming Newsroom Racism

This week, Amanda Zamora of Poynter.org discusses how newsrooms can combat racism. In an open letter to newsroom leaders throughout the industry, she discusses specific strategies including salary transparency, not hiding behind human resources departments, frank discussions about race, and adjusting workplace practices that have traditionally benefited white employees at the expense of others. She writes: “I am ... acutely aware. Aware that the system of white supremacy that paved the way for [George] Floyd’s death is the same system at work in our newsrooms. Aware of the ways newsroom leaders have allowed white superiority to harm our colleagues. And aware of the part I’ve played in that harm, enabling people who have both given me so much and benefited from my silence.” Read the full letter here.

Publishers Experiencing “Engagement Surge”

This week, Caysey Welton of Foliomag.com explores the “engagement surge” publishers have seen during the Covid-19 pandemic. “During the pandemic,” she writes, “Americans were hungry to devour news and information about the virus and its impacts on society and the economy. Likewise, they also wanted to be entertained and have a chance to escape, even if for a moment. This was evident to several publishers we’ve spoken to since the pandemic began, many of whom saw significant upticks in traffic and engagement across all of their channels.” These gains, she says, present publishers with an opportunity for sustained growth. Read the full article here.

Google to License News Content from Publishers

Why is Google suddenly announcing intentions to pay for publisher content licenses? Lucinda Southern of Digiday.com explores the sudden pivot in a recent piece. The new initiative, she reports, will first launch in Australia, Germany, and Brazil -- and Google is reportedly in talks with several other countries. But the internet giant’s motives are unclear: “Writing a check to publishers in regions where it’s feeling the heat from regulators for not paying publishers buys some goodwill, according to sources,” Southern writes. “Google’s responded to comment saying it recognized it needed to do more for publishers and is keen to expand the project but could not be more specific.” Many are skeptical of Google’s real motives, and their carefully worded statement only raises more questions for some publishers. Read more here.

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