“Too Quiet”: A Times Editor on Working in a Motionless Newsroom

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He is quiet. It’s very quiet.

I’m in a huge newsroom in a 52-story tower in the busiest district of one of the busiest cities in the world and… nothing. Not sound. A wide look around reveals a barren landscape of empty tables and empty seats. A glance at the scarecrows reveals two more floors in a similar state of nothingness.

One Thursday night in The New York Times, me and a few other brave souls were starting to resurface after working from home for over a year. Most Thursdays I see a few colleagues from Print Hub, who is responsible for producing the daily print newspaper, on the fourth floor. There are two or three senior editors on the third floor. You see a few faces walking around. But not much.

“There were a couple of days where you practically didn’t see anyone,” said Mark Getzfred, a senior editor, who said he returned to the office full-time for a change of scenery in May, giving his wife some elbow room. at home.

Print production editor Alan Robertazzi has been coming several days a week since September, when The Times offered its employees the option to return for the same reasons. “I found it to be a refreshing change of pace,” he said. “For me, working from home has blurred the lines between work and private life, and I love having these clear boundaries.”

My reasons for coming are pretty much the same, although it’s sometimes silly to drive that far from Long Island.

There’s a Macaulay Culkin “Home Alone” vibe in our nearly empty tower, the intoxicating feeling of having the house all to yourself to run down the hall, play loud music or, I don’t know, sit at the editor-in-chief’s desk. sit on the chair and pretend you run this place. The self-service cafe is stocked with salads, sandwiches, and neat little piles of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

And yet, in a post-apocalyptic moment in a seemingly frozen civilization like Pompeii, there’s a kind of Charlton Heston “Omega Man” creepiness, especially when our fast-paced jobs require keeping up with every breaking news. , 24/7.

“The whole department was a time capsule of our sudden departure,” said my friend, Print Hub editor, Dan Adkison, who said he started coming back one day a week, because he wanted to ease his way back to office life before it was filled with humanity. again. “The calendar on my desk was still set to March 10, 2020, and my handwritten notes for the March 11, 2020 issue were still next to my keyboard. Newspapers of 2020 are scattered on the tables.”

One of our designers, Rebecca Rillos, also said she needed a few test runs before she could fully immerse. As odd as it may be in the well-preserved office, he said it’s much more shocking to see how much has changed outside – shuttered shops, disappearing coffee shops.

Like other businesses worldwide, The Times is preparing for the official Back to Office, or RTO, set for July, with in-office and remote working plans delayed to early September. There are strong arguments that Work from Home, or WFH, could be a part of our future, as we’ve proven we can get the newspaper out of the house.

The objection is undeniable: sitting in your own chair with your dog curled up under your legs; let’s say comfortable cut work clothes; and a short “home” to the sofa. (Do I miss hanging out with drunken Rangers fans at 1am at Penn Station? I’m not.)

What I miss is the hum of the newsroom, the city’s never-ending energy, the noise of phones and keyboards and my coworkers’ last-day headline ideas or laughing at a gallows-humor joke.

“Every time I see a new face in the newsroom, I want to run and tell them how happy I am to see them face-to-face instead of seeing them on screen in a little box,” Dan said.

But for now, real live humans remain a rare sight on The Times. It’s still quiet. It’s very quiet. Kevin McCallister and Omega Man could use a small company.

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