Videoconferencing brings more geographic diversity

“With the distance allowed by ubiquitous videoconferencing, people in more remote locations or with less access to power are now just as accessible as the think tank two subway stops away.”

The lockdowns and quarantines that resulted from the coronavirus pandemic caused an unprecedented reliance on remote working and videoconferencing, as nearly all workers whose job functions allowed it worked from home in 2020. As a result, meetings, conferences, and conversations have migrated online, leading to a massive increase in the use of Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, and other videoconferencing apps for day-to-day business functions.

My hope/prediction for journalism in 2021 is that the newfound comfort with videoconferencing will lead journalists to sources and places they might not have looked before.

Observers have long lamented that national news, especially, is so focused on a few coastal cities like New York and Washington, where both media companies and power structures are based. But with the distance allowed by ubiquitous videoconferencing, people in more remote locations or with less access to power are now just as accessible as the think tank two subway stops away. Journalists should take advantage of this development to broaden the range of people and places in their stories.

As a correlate, many people who once lived in cities or other places defined by their cultural affordances (major institutions, great restaurants, live performances, etc.) have made the decision to leave for locations that can offer bigger houses and bigger yards at an affordable price. This includes all the journalists who have taken the opportunity to move home, where “home” is in the remote suburbs or the Midwest, for example. What both of these trends could mean is that the geographic diversity long lacking in national political news might finally be on the way.

Sarah Stonbely is research director of the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University.

The lockdowns and quarantines that resulted from the coronavirus pandemic caused an unprecedented reliance on remote working and videoconferencing, as nearly all workers whose job functions allowed it worked from home in 2020. As a result, meetings, conferences, and conversations have migrated online, leading to a massive increase in the use of Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, and other videoconferencing apps for day-to-day business functions.

My hope/prediction for journalism in 2021 is that the newfound comfort with videoconferencing will lead journalists to sources and places they might not have looked before.

Observers have long lamented that national news, especially, is so focused on a few coastal cities like New York and Washington, where both media companies and power structures are based. But with the distance allowed by ubiquitous videoconferencing, people in more remote locations or with less access to power are now just as accessible as the think tank two subway stops away. Journalists should take advantage of this development to broaden the range of people and places in their stories.

As a correlate, many people who once lived in cities or other places defined by their cultural affordances (major institutions, great restaurants, live performances, etc.) have made the decision to leave for locations that can offer bigger houses and bigger yards at an affordable price. This includes all the journalists who have taken the opportunity to move home, where “home” is in the remote suburbs or the Midwest, for example. What both of these trends could mean is that the geographic diversity long lacking in national political news might finally be on the way.

Sarah Stonbely is research director of the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University.

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