Bureaus, correspondents, freelancers–journalists and media-types have always worked remotely. Reporting on location is glamorized, exotic datelines accentuated. More than the flash that comes with it, remote work is a necessary part of journalism.
That’s part of the reason Yahoo’s pronouncement that it would end work-from-home arrangements drew skepticism from the journalism community in particular this week. While on-site reporting and working from home are different, the lines can blur when it comes to journalism.
Take Quartz, The Atlantic’s new global business site. Editor-in-chief Kevin Delaney has 12 editorial staffers working from the group’s home office in New York, but his team extends to Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Los Angeles, London, Paris, South Africa, Indonesia, India, Thailand and soon, Hong Kong. Many of those reporters operate out of home offices.
"It’s a great advantage," he says. "We’re able to be a global, 24/7 news organization serving an international readership."
Technology–instant messaging, Google Hangouts and shared documents are among the solutions Delaney has implemented–has allowed Quartz’s staff to stay connected in spite of the disparate locales and time zones.
Yahoo is one of the most technologically advanced companies in the world though. They can figure out IMing. It’s the loss of intra-office relationships that’s their main concern, according to the company’s internal notice leaked last Friday.
"Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings," the memo reads. "Being a Yahoo isn’t just about your day-to-day job, it is about the interactions and experiences that are only possible in our offices."
Delaney admits the value of those "interactions and experiences" but believes they happen online, if slightly differently.
"There is a shared buzz around the office when you meet at the coffee machine," he says. "A lot of it carries over to IM though, particularly since we have a group chat that’s exposed to everybody. There’s something that could potentially concern just two people, but then winds up spilling out into the group chat and other people weigh in on it and follow up. The benefits of having a geographic spread and of having those serendipitous interactions where they live is a huge advantage and far outweighs the individual collisions in a single workplace."
Considering the nature of the job–highly digital and web-focused–and the institutional memory of remote work in journalism, media members might simply be better suited for the task than others.
Like Delaney, Macy Fecto, executive vice president of human resources and administration for business media publisher Access Intelligence, the parent company of Folio:, says that working from home is a plausible solution for journalists in today’s business environment.
"Today’s media lends itself [to remote work] better than ever," she says. "Because we work in a medium that is so digital, we’re all used to that. Media has a slight edge over other industries, having people who can make the most of the various tools available that allow you to work from home and allow you to do so successfully."