So Trinity Mirror is carrying out another “experiment” on their favourite lab-rat, the local newspaper journalist.
Not content with shutting district newspaper offices and slashing jobs, they now want to say goodbye to the newsroom at the Crewe Chronicle. It’s been described as a “pilot” project, so so presumably will be rolled out elsewhere if it proves a success.
According to the National Union of Journalists, this latest brainwave involves the closure of the Crewe office and the paper being produced from the kitchen table of its eight staff members. The company have said the journalists can work from home or from their cars.
Oh yes, I can see that working really well. I can just see the young hack alone on a roadside with a tablet or laptop or expensive smartphone and maybe a video camera as well, in full view view every passer by as they try to file their copy. That sounds so safe and responsible.
Of course all this is done in the best interests of local journalism and is “not primarily driven by financial reasons but as an experiment to see to see how journalists might be able to work in isolation”.
Well, Ms Bailey or who-ever it is who has come up with this crackpot idea, there have already been a number of experiments done on the problems of working from home or in isolation.
Susan Baines in her paper New technologies and old ways of working in the home of the self-employed teleworker concludes that as home-based work “becomes more widespread, the results may not only be harsh for many individuals but damaging overall to the quality of working life. It is notable that even the most positive accounts of freelancing at home almost never include personal and professional development, or opportunities to pass on skills to younger people.”
Quite apart from these effects on the well-being and health and safety of journalists there will be an obvious impact on the quality of local news. It surely does not take an experiment like this to conclude that a local newspaper needs to be visibly based in the heart of the community it serves.