Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Inquirer's Move Could Affect Staff Morale

The Philadelphia Inquirer (and Daily News) may be moving out of its 18-story, 1920s home after company owners decided to put the building up for sale, Bob Fernandez reports.

The reason? Reducing debt, of course.

Now I'm all for turnaround at the paper, but I wonder: What will the effect be on the morale of the 950-some staff?

As is mentioned endlessly before, newspapers aren't exactly on the up-and-up, yet it's interesting to compare that at the same time, the New York Times has moved into a new headquarters for only the second time in its history. Of course, the Times Co. is a far cry from the parent company of the Inquirer and its tabloid sibling, but I find it fascinating that one major paper is moving into a shiny, new home while another is selling off the roof over its head.

(Apparently, in a moment of similarity, the Inquirer couldn't find a renter for the half of building that sat empty).

Now I'm not going to opine on the decision, because the Philadelphia and New York real estate markets and the financial health of each parent company are certainly different (and above all, it remains to be seen what the effect could be). However, I do think this decision is a major turning point for the Inquirer -- it could be good, it could be bad. Will a new home help shake off the old demons, or will it encourage uncertainty?

I don't know. Any Inquirer staffers care to chime in? How do you feel about the move? Is the old office feeling a bit, well, old?

On the receiving end, if the money is reinvested in its journalism and its online presence, the Inquirer could benefit. However, if the money is distributed into other fringe outlets not directly connected with its bread-and-butter product (and that now includes philly.com), I fear the worst.

Tierney put it this way in the article:

"Wherever we go has to be an iconic address," Tierney said. "I hope somehow we could stay attached to this piece of land." He said he would like a modern newsroom and offices that would "make the place more progressive."

Here's for being optimistic. I'd certainly love Tierney to elaborate on what he thinks is a modern, progressive newsroom, too. Nevertheless: Does a new home shake up the newsroom flow too much, or does it provide a clean slate for new, Pulitzer-worthy ideas?

(Times staffers -- or any other newspapers that I'm not aware of that recently moved shop -- if you're out there, an anonymous comment with your thoughts would also be welcome.)

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