Let’s talk about what sustainability really means

“Sustainability is a kind of attention that’s only accessible when newsroom staff have time to think and explore, and to be closer to our communities, without feeling like this is time stolen from other deliverables.”

In the aftermath of newsroom work shifting from offices to homes, many journalists have felt the line between professional and personal life become more porous. For some, that’s presented an opportunity to prioritize storytelling at a time people needed journalism at its best.

For others, perhaps, burnout has crept in. Or being beholden to the news cycle no longer feels like the way forward. Or the tug-of-war between “journalism as a job” and “journalism as an identity” is reaching its highest tension yet.

As we check in with ourselves, our colleagues, and our organizations going into a new year, these thoughts can be opportunities for analyzing not just the output of our work, but also how we got here and how we can make the journalistic process the best version of itself it can be.

Prioritizing editorial efforts and products in a human-centered way — a goal many organizations set for themselves, especially those with a strong reader-revenue focus — means honest, powerful, and often difficult conversations with both staff and readers. And the context in which we now work to answer these questions requires a high degree of openness and trust.

Our conversations around sustainability can no longer be limited to the financial resilience of our media companies. Sustainability is also the care and attention we can give to our work when we are there fully. Sustainability is a kind of attention that’s only accessible when newsroom staffers have time to think and explore, and to be closer to our communities, without feeling like this is time stolen from other deliverables.

It produces work with impact that may not be immediately quantifiable, but which has a ripple effect in the long term on newsroom life and editorial work.

Before we strategize further or as we look again at the plans we’ve set out for the next year, there’s an opportunity to chart what we know and what we don’t know about how to best serve our communities. A complex discussion about what sustainability really means today, for media organizations and for journalists individually, is overdue.

Catalina Albeanu is digital editor at the Romanian news organization DoR.

In the aftermath of newsroom work shifting from offices to homes, many journalists have felt the line between professional and personal life become more porous. For some, that’s presented an opportunity to prioritize storytelling at a time people needed journalism at its best.

For others, perhaps, burnout has crept in. Or being beholden to the news cycle no longer feels like the way forward. Or the tug-of-war between “journalism as a job” and “journalism as an identity” is reaching its highest tension yet.

As we check in with ourselves, our colleagues, and our organizations going into a new year, these thoughts can be opportunities for analyzing not just the output of our work, but also how we got here and how we can make the journalistic process the best version of itself it can be.

Prioritizing editorial efforts and products in a human-centered way — a goal many organizations set for themselves, especially those with a strong reader-revenue focus — means honest, powerful, and often difficult conversations with both staff and readers. And the context in which we now work to answer these questions requires a high degree of openness and trust.

Our conversations around sustainability can no longer be limited to the financial resilience of our media companies. Sustainability is also the care and attention we can give to our work when we are there fully. Sustainability is a kind of attention that’s only accessible when newsroom staffers have time to think and explore, and to be closer to our communities, without feeling like this is time stolen from other deliverables.

It produces work with impact that may not be immediately quantifiable, but which has a ripple effect in the long term on newsroom life and editorial work.

Before we strategize further or as we look again at the plans we’ve set out for the next year, there’s an opportunity to chart what we know and what we don’t know about how to best serve our communities. A complex discussion about what sustainability really means today, for media organizations and for journalists individually, is overdue.

Catalina Albeanu is digital editor at the Romanian news organization DoR.

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