Sunday, October 25, 2020
Oct. 25, 2020

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From the Newsroom: Powering up our command module

By , Columbian Editor
Published:

I was walking around the newsroom the other day and it reminded me of the movie “Apollo 13.”

Since I am the right age to be a space buff, I saw similarities between the dark, abandoned Apollo command module and the darkened, abandoned newsroom.

A lot of the reporters’ calendars are still stuck on the week of March 15, when most of us shifted to working remotely. When the sunlight through the windows is right, you even can see that a fine layer of dust covers the flat surfaces of desks and cubicle dividers.

The movie, of course, was based on a real-life 1970 space mission. The mission ended successfully when the astronauts were able to power up the command module in time to make a safe splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

Soon it will be up to businesses all around the country to figure out how to power up their own command modules. It will take a lot of ingenuity to make our own safe splashdowns.

My little piece of it is to figure out what to do in the newsroom. We have both a physical challenge and a content challenge ahead of us.

The physical challenge might be the easiest to address. We currently sit close together, but the newsroom has some empty floor space. If we rebuild the work stations into clusters, we can try to sit journalists in groups of about four, with their heads at least 6 feet apart (or with a tall, solid panel between them.) Plus, everyone will have a little more desk space once it is safe to return to the office.

The other challenge is a little more perplexing.

How and when do we restore the content we have had to cut back? When can we move our deadlines later into the evening, so that we can catch as many sports scores and winning lottery numbers as possible? You remember sports scores, don’t you? It all feels so long ago.

I think our first priority has to be returning our staff members to their full-time jobs. Because we have had less to do in a world without sports and entertainment news, we’ve cut back hours for eight of our staff. Luckily, they are able to recoup their financial loss through a state unemployment program called Shared Work. But we want them back working full time as soon as possible.

Another priority will be to restore our Weekend section, which publishes on Fridays. It’s simply the best source of information about entertainment news in Clark County, and readers say they are missing the restaurant stories and health inspection scores. (Although we aren’t printing a Weekend section, we’re still posting the health inspection scores on our website.)

Business news is another priority. We eliminated our daily business cover page and our standalone Sunday business section. We have not reduced local business news. It’s been mingled with the rest of our local news report. But it’s harder to find, and we are carrying less national and international business news, which has to compete for space on our wire pages.

Some readers are missing the Money and Markets page that ran inside our C section on Tuesdays-Fridays. I am not a fan of this page. Today there are many better ways to get stock prices. There’s the internet. Cable TV has several business channels that display stock prices in the crawler across the bottom. You can get a customized stock report on your mobile phone or tablet. Yet readers say they miss our page, so we will try to return it.

Financial support is going to be key to all of these plans. We are a business, and can’t afford to spend more money than we take in. Although our readers have faithfully supported us in this crisis, we will have to see recovery in advertising revenue before we can make this command module fully operational again.

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