The incoming editor of Scotland on Sunday has said she “could never, ever have dreamed” of applying had Covid-19 not made home-working a possibility.
But Catherine Salmond (pictured) also warned that “deskbound” reporters need to start getting out of their home offices as soon as possible to improve the quality and breadth of their reporting and hold onto readers’ loyalty.
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Speaking on a panel about regional journalism run by Women in Journalism, Salmond said: “It’s vital that we get our reporters out of home-working as soon as possible and away from desks and out in the community to do the job that I’m sure they all signed up for that wasn’t sitting in their sitting rooms or wherever they’re doing this and be back, visibly present.”
Salmond, who will take on her role as Scotland on Sunday editor next month, said it was especially important for newer reporters who never worked in an office before the pandemic hit or had the chance to “do the sort of reporting that anyone who’s done it for a long time has loved”.
“The home-working cannot continue in this deskbound way for too much longer,” she said.
Salmond, who is currently live news editor at JPI Media’s The Scotsman and Edinburgh Evening News, was named Scotland on Sunday editor as new owner National World progressed plans to localise its newsrooms and appoint dedicated editors after years of consolidation.
Salmond said the flexibility home-working had brought during the pandemic had many benefits, especially for women who often double as primary carers for children or older relatives.
She praised the move away from an attitude that meant journalists had to be a “bum on a seat however many hours a day” towards “the ability to juggle your life around your work in a way that wasn’t there before”.
“For women, I would like to think that that flexibility could be quite empowering,” she said.
“I know the job that I’m going on to do in a month’s time – I could never, ever have dreamed of applying for that job had home-working not been a possibility.
“So I’d like to think that this is a huge positive to come from the pandemic and it’s quite sad to think that it’s taken a pandemic to shake up how reporters can work and that you don’t have to be bound to an office.
“I think it’s really exciting. And I hope that other people have had that experience. I think it’s limiting when you’re chained to your house but I think if employers can give you the freedom to do bits of both it could be fantastic.”
Abigail Rabbett, Reach’s youngest ever editor aged 23 who is launching new websites in Norfolk and Suffolk, echoed Salmond’s hopes for better flexibility and said she had actively been trying to get her reporters out and about more.
Reach has told staff around a quarter of them will go back to being permanently office-based, with the rest a mixture of office and home-based (generally with less than 50% of time in a newsroom), and home-based teams who can use an office occasionally.
Rabbett said: “We’ve got reporters in starting to write launch content and one of the things I’ve been doing is just once or twice a week getting them out, going to places, taking some free time, go and speak to some people, go and find some stories.
“I think that the benefit of working from home is now that we have got the opportunity to do that and we are more savvy. We do have almost a sense now that we can manage our time as a team better.”
In a recent round of recruitment Newsquest, the second biggest regional publisher after Reach, told potential candidates they “won’t be stuck at home” but will continue to work in local newsrooms post-Covid.
Picture: Screenshot/Women In Journalism