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Most journalists urged to work from home as coronavirus hits awards

MullenJournalism awards ceremonies have been postponed while coronavirus continues to affect working practices in the industry.

Reach plc says the “vast majority” of its staff are now working from home, while chief executive Jim Mullen, pictured, has moved to reassure employees of his aim to “keep our business operating”.

Earlier this month, JPIMedia announced it was closing all its remaining reception desks with immediate effect, with the exceptions of those it shares with other companies in shared buildings.

HTFP has asked Reach, JPIMedia and Newsquest for an update on the advice they are giving to their staff following yesterday evening’s government announcement on the latest measures to tackle the spread of the virus.

In an email to all Reach staff, Mr Mullen said: “While the next few weeks present us with an unprecedented challenge, I assure you that we are prepared to do what it takes to keep our business operating, to keep news being distributed to our readers and customers, all while focusing on the wellbeing of our employees.”

JPIMedia has obtained an additional 350 laptops to allow for more flexible working, but expects to see a “significant reduction” in advertising.

In an update issued to staff today, chief executive David King said: “We have looked at each area of the business to identify which activities can be done from home and where possible are prioritising providing equipment to people in those areas. Some jobs can only be done on site, and there are IT constraints on how many people we can support working from home.

“We will aim to keep our offices and print sites open and where possible we will arrange for more people to work from home, and are working to increase our IT capacity to handle more home workers.

“We have developed extensive plans to enable us to continue to publish our content in print and online and via social media. Indeed we have an important role to play in sharing accurate information and trusted advice about the virus with our audiences. It is essential that during this highly disruptive period we continue to support our audiences.

“We can expect to see a significant reduction in advertising as businesses react to the challenges they face, and we have postponed a number of events. Again we can use our access to audiences to help our advertising customers communicate with their customers. As I have said before, we now have a much stronger balance sheet and cash in the bank, which combined with actions to drive revenue and tight cost control, puts us in a stronger position than a couple of years ago.”

Mr King went on to ad he didn’t want to “underestimate the challenge” ahead.

He said: “We are clearly in unprecedented times. We are giving guidance with a view to minimising risk to you and the business, and also to the communities that we all live and work in. Government has also recommended that we all act responsibly, such as avoiding crowds and non-essential travel.

“Thank you all for your patience and continued support as we tackle these issues. Please do read the advice mentioned above and talk to your line manager.”

A Newsquest spokesman said: “Our current policy is that where staff can work from home they should do so.

“If staff are unable to work from home, they can continue to come into the office – and as far as is possible, avoid close contact with colleagues.”

The Wales Media Awards, which were due to be held this Friday, have now been postponed until November, while the newsawards will now also be held later in the year.

In a statement, the WMA said: “The rescheduled event will take place at the original venue, the Holland House Hotel, Cardiff, and all tickets bought for the event this Friday will be honoured and remain valid for the new date.

“However, if any individual knows they will be unable to attend on the new date, they are invited to contact wma@spencerdavid.co.uk to arrange a refund.

“240 entries were received in this year’s competition from individual print, online, radio and television journalists and from newspapers, web outlets and broadcasters in 20 categories.”

Judging of the newsawards print categories has been postponed and nominations will be announced later in the year when all judging is completed.

Gary Cullum, director of newsawards, said: “The newsawards team has decided that it would be prudent and responsible to postpone this year’s awards dinner until later in the year when, hopefully, life will have returned to some kind of normality.

“We are currently talking to the Royal Lancaster Hotel, London about possible future dates and will announce a new date for newsawards 2020 as soon as possible.”

6 comments

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  • March 18, 2020 at 8:10 am
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    In many cases working from a laptop at a desk far removed from the communities in their papers catchment areas will be something most reporters are very used to, difference is they’ll be incurring operational costs such as heat and electricity, rather than their employers

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  • March 18, 2020 at 11:00 am
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    The policy of WFH will come as a blessing for any regional publisher who may have downsized and cannot accommodate all their staff.
    No regional group springs to mind but if there is one I’ll bet their editor will be posting self righteously about being proud of the staff being determined to keep bringing the news even though they’re remote working.
    WFH could well be a solution to many a problem

    Every cloud as they say…..

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  • March 18, 2020 at 2:34 pm
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    The evolution of regional journalism may well be permanent home working on a self employed basis.
    When you think how everything that can be sold has been sold and how everything that can be cut has been cut, many struggling publishers will see this as a way of getting the job done on the cheap while reducing overheads, in many instances they’d actually be passing the day to day costs on to the employee.
    There would also be the opportunity to close non essential departments ( HR for instance) and outsource or buy in the work on an as needed basis rather than running full time departments when the changed working practices couldn’t justify it.

    Personally I can think of nothing more soul destroying than working alone, remote from any colleagues living life at the kitchen table, on the phone ,or more likely at a laptop pumping out emails and scouring public social media posts for story leads to post to hit click rate targets,but knowing how severe some cost cutting has been at certain centres I can see home working being adopted more and more.

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  • March 18, 2020 at 2:49 pm
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    This will make little difference to my local JPI weekly. Hasn’t seen a locally-based reporter in an area of about 150,000 people in years and how it shows.

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  • March 19, 2020 at 9:05 am
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    The issues around home working do need clarity as those people will incur additional costs which the company/ its employer, would normally be expected to pay.
    Perhaps someone could let us know either what their company policy is and what they will be reimbursed for or what additional expenses they are incurring by remote working
    Maybe one for HTFP to seek answers to?

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  • March 19, 2020 at 3:10 pm
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    Some centres have been operating remote working on a softly softly basis for some time, usually as a result of district offices closing or downsized operations resulting in shared buildings unable to accommodate all the staff. With easy savings to be made by day to day costs being passed on to the poor remote worker you can see why those at the top would want to operate in this way.
    I just hope the reporters realise it may not be a temporary fix and cold very well become the norm.

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