A Trinity Mirror regional newspaper has begun "an experiment to see how journalists might be able to work in isolation" – by working from home.
The National Union of Journalists has voiced concern about the plan, which it says will see eight journalists at the Crewe Chronicle swapping the newsroom for "news prisons" such as their spare room or kitchen table.
- May 17, 2018
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The union understands that the plan will be in place by the end of May and that the pilot that could be extended to other Trinity Mirror titles.
A similar initiative was announced in January at the Johnston Press-owned Hemel Hempstead Gazette – where five journalists now upload stories using a work-issued laptop from their home and the office has gone altogether.
The NUJ said the Crewe experiment had been described by management as "not primarily driven by financial reasons".
The Trinity Mirror Cheshire chapel said the move would affect the personal working conditions of members.
It said: "The chapel believes a newspaper should have a physical presence in the heart of the community it serves. It is also concerned that journalists will become isolated and will not benefit from the teamwork that results from working alongside colleagues in an office. Younger members of staff particularly benefit from working with more experienced colleagues."
NUJ Northern and Midlands organiser Chris Morley said: "The manner in which the company is seeking to ram through a very significant change for the way journalists work with what appears to be a veneer of consultation is shoddy.
"They are giving the impression that it is a done deal and they will accept nothing less, but our members are saying this is not good enough and want to explore alternatives properly."
He added: "Thriving local journalism is about teamwork and not the atomisation of editorial departments that trap journalists into 'news prisons' where they don’t have clear access to support, training and the buzz that comes from working in a newsroom.
"We believe this will be damaging not only for our members but crucially for the titles they support – and will be badly received by the community they serve. We want the company to demonstrate it is willing to look at all reasonable options to retain a town centre office.”
A Trinity Mirror spokesman said: "This is a pilot to evaluate how working differently, and utilising available technology can enable us to control costs without reducing the number of journalists we employ.
"We're harnessing the benefits of mobile technology to allow reporters to work in local markets and remove costly infrastructure. We want to invest in journalism not bricks and mortar."