The Evolution of Newsrooms

How the Pandemic has Transformed Journalism

Newsrooms in the United States lost 16,160 positions last year alone – nearly 200% higher compared to 2019. The previous record for U.S. newsrooms layoffs occurred after the last financial crisis in 2008, with 14,265 jobs cut. The COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of large-scale events and closures of organizations that traditionally spent on newspaper, television and radio ads. Less ad spending caused newsrooms across the country and the world, from Fox News to the Tampa Bay Times, to announce layoffs to cut their budgets.

This led to a domino effect of decreased diversity in newsrooms, lack of transparency and trust for consumers, and more difficulty breaking through the noise of today’s news cycle. Read on to learn more about what changing newsrooms mean for marketers and consumers.

The Downfall of Cutting Costs

Not only have newsrooms cut staff, but some have also moved locations to save on rent. For example, in January 2021, The Chicago Tribune announced plans to move its newsroom from the downtown office to its printing facility instead. On top of that, the Chicago Tribune’s parent company, Tribune Publishing announced the newsrooms of five of its outlets will permanently shut down – those included are the Daily News in New York, the Capital Gazette and the Carroll County Times in Maryland, the Allentown Morning Call in Pennsylvania, and the Orlando Sentinel in Florida.

Despite the benefits of cost-cutting to save news outlets’ bottom line, reporters believe there’s valuable learning opportunities and collaboration now missing when they’re not together in a physical newsroom. In addition, moving locations means reporters are likely not as close to the communities in which they report on, which removes their connection to an area.

Communications professionals who are pitching stories to local news outlets can support short-staffed newsrooms by providing all the necessary information upfront in a concise pitch. Sometimes newsrooms won’t have the ability to attend an event. Consider hiring your own photographer or videographer to capture images and B-roll that newsrooms can easily incorporate into their stories. They’ll appreciate having access to these resources, and it can enhance your chance of securing media coverage and building relationships with reporters.

Decreased Newsrooms, Increased Burnout

Cutting newsroom costs is also putting the gains news outlets have made regarding increased diversity at risk. Now, more than ever, newsrooms are led by women, people of color, or other minority groups. The Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, The Associated Press, ABC News, and more are among those with minority groups in top roles. However, these leaders realize they must continue to increase diversity at all levels, from reporters to salespeople to editors.

Given the lack of staff during the pandemic, remaining journalists are also dealing with increased feelings of burnout. While all employees are dealing with burnout, it’s especially difficult for journalists to take time off given the number of newsworthy events happening on a regular basis. In fact, roughly 70% of all journalists across the world are facing psychological distress due to not being able to take breaks and increased online harassment. Given the pressure news journalists are under, it’s clear this can have an impact on reporting as well.

Be mindful of the struggles that journalists are experiencing right now. Because many are covering numerous beats due to layoffs, their inboxes are overwhelmed with pitches, some of which may be breaking news. Do your research to determine if they are still the best fit for your news, as some employees may no longer cover a specific topic. What stories have they covered recently? Is the pandemic currently a focus within their stories or are they focusing on other areas of focus. Additionally, give journalists time to review your pitch before following up. Marketing teams should also understand that media coverage may be slightly slower to publish as a result of smaller newsrooms.

Bring Back Transparency

In June, Reuters Institute in partnership with the University of Oxford released the 10th edition of the Digital News Report, highlighting how the world views the news industry. While overall trust of the media increased on average by 6% worldwide, the United States now has the lowest trust in media compared to the 46 total markets surveyed. For many Americans, a newsroom’s strong biases or partisan leaning in reporting leads them to not trust them as easily as years prior. According to the Knight Foundation’s report, in order to regain trust, U.S. newsrooms must commit to transparency and fact-checking resources, thus minimizing “fake news.” On the bright side, the report found nearly 7 in 10 Americans believe their trust in newsrooms can be restored.

To support journalists in their quest to share meaningful and trustworthy news, provide reliable data and sources to back up your claims and effectively highlight why your product, service, event, contest or other idea matters. Avoid trying to leverage politically charged topics that have little to do with your brand. Similarly, avoid pitching content to journalists whose views, or whose news outlet’s views, do not align with your desired messaging.

Find Messaging That Sticks

Clearly, journalists are facing lack of support and resources at all angles, thus making it difficult for brands to cut through and share their message. It’s important to have a deep understanding of what reporters today are facing and build relationships with journalists to increase chances of getting your message shared with their audiences.

For ways to help your brand cut through the clutter of today’s news cycle, connect with us to build your messaging and public relations plan today!


Brianna Fitzpatrick is an Account Executive at Mulberry Marketing Communications, an award-winning full-service B2B communications agency based in Chicago, London and Australia. She has an excitement for media relations and crafting key messages for thought leaders.