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Changing Newsrooms 2021: hybrid working and improving diversity remain twin challenges for publishers

Reuters Institute

November 19, 2021

The return to the office is underway but with COVID-19 lingering in a number of countries, progress remains uneven and uncertain. Many will find newsrooms very different places to the ones they left. For some, the office has disappeared completely.

This report, which is based on a survey of 132 senior industry leaders from 42 countries as well as a series of in-depth interviews, makes clear that ‘hybrid working’ will soon be the norm for the vast majority of journalists in many news organisations – with some people in the office and others working remotely – and that the industry is still struggling with attracting talent and addressing lack of diversity. 

Among other things, we find that:

  • Respondents say their companies are now mostly (79%) on board with the shift to hybrid working and even more (89%) say they themselves are committed.
  • A third (34%) say their organisations have already decided on major changes and are moving to implement hybrid working, but over half (57%) are still in the process of working out the best way to do this. Around one in ten (9%) say their organisations are looking to return to a working model as similar as possible to before the pandemic.
  • Our findings suggest publishers still struggle to attract and retain technology and data skills which are in great demand elsewhere. In contrast, most respondents remain broadly confident (63%) about keeping newsroom staff. Around half of respondents (47%) felt that the pandemic has made recruitment and retention of media staff harder, with less than a fifth (17%) saying that it was easier.
  • Most respondents say their news organisation is doing a good job with gender diversity (78%), but fewer say the same about ethnic diversity (38%) and attracting those from less advantaged backgrounds (37%) or with diverse political views (33%). In the light of the Black Lives Matter movement and greater awareness of historic injustices, ethnic diversity remains the biggest priority for media companies – identified by 35% as the single most important priority in terms of improving newsroom diversity, followed by gender diversity (26%) and greater diversity from less advantaged groups (17%).
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