A few months before the coronavirus pandemic hit, we moved our newsroom into a different part of our building on Elida Road in Lima that was a little more open and inviting.
In the process, I moved out of my own office near the reporters’ desks, completely by choice. I like the energy of a bustling newsroom, and my happiest days were when I had a desk right in the middle of the madness years ago. There’s something enthralling about eavesdropping on the phone calls between reporters and their sources, about the inside jokes that develop and about the strange conversations you navigate in a workplace full of creative people.
I’ve been reminiscing about those days lately. I’m still in the same location, but the need for social distancing spread everyone out into different parts of the building. We gave reporters the option to work from home, and they chose to work from here. We wanted our reporters to be able to use their phones and write without masks, so they ended up in different private offices in an unused part of the building, including one of my previous offices.
So here I am, back by myself in a quiet space despite my best efforts to be near the action.
It’s the most visual of the adjustments we’ve made here at The Lima News in the year since the pandemic hit home and changed the way everyone does business. You can read about how the community adjusted in the Celebrating Our Spirit section that appears in today’s newspaper, or online at LimaOhio.com/tag/spirit. Next week, a complementary section arrives, detailing how businesses adjusted.
It’s definitely changed how we gather the news. So much of the best journalism is generated over friendly conversations with people in the community, yet we’ve been unable to meet face to face as easily.
Many government meetings are still happening online, where you miss the chance to bump into someone in the hallway and ask about the reasoning or concessions that got you to a certain decision. I remember one particular governmental body where its mayor would often suggest visiting a local watering hole after I filed my story so he could tell me the real reasons they did things.
Newspapers are loaded with introverts like me who aren’t opposed to having conversations but just never know what to say. The work gives us something to talk to people about. I know I’m losing my ability to make small talk and learn about people, since it’s so simple to turn your microphone off on Zoom and mind your own business for a bit.
It hasn’t been all bad, though. We’ve gotten smarter with understanding data and how to present it, something that flies in the face of the well-worn stereotype that journalists can’t do math. Rapidly being able to sift through and understand complex piles of information only makes us stronger in telling you the stories of our communities.
It’s nearly impossible to guess when things will return to normal, or even if they’ll return to normal. Some jobs are lost forever, including in our own building as we adjusted to financial realities. Some jobs had to change with the times.
Some day we’ll better know how our adaptations helped or hindered the spread of the virus and whether things will ever return to the way they were 12 months ago. Until then, I just miss the noise of a newsroom working around me.