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The	How,	What,	and	Where	of	News?:	The	Crisis	and	Promise	of	
Post-Industrial	Journalism	
Nikki	Usher,	PhD	
Assistant	Professor	
George	Washington	University	
	
Overview:	
This	book	brings	together	unique	insights	from	newsrooms	across	the	U.S.	to	offer	a	distinct	
perspective	on	the	state	of	journalism	today.	Drawing	on	the	idea	of	post-industrial	journalism,	or	
the	proposition	that	journalism	has	been	unmoored	from	its	traditional,	institutional	foundations,1	
this	book	will	examine	the	material	foundations	of	journalism	and	the	places	and	spaces	where	
both	digital	and	print	news	is	created.	Newspapers	must	reckon	with	a	key	contradiction:	the	
business	model	for	journalism	no	longer	follows	the	traditional,	predictable,	and	profitable	patterns	
of	the	print	era,	but	the	news	industry	is	still	nonetheless	tied	to	its	industrial	past.		This	industrial	
past	remains	significant,	because	almost	all	newspapers	still	rely	mostly	on	their	print	product	to	
make	money,	yet	operating	costs	are	still	significant.	But	digital	costs	also	add	up.	The	book	
ultimately	argues	that	the	move	toward	digital	production	and	distribution	in	journalism	ends	up	
reindustrializing	journalism,	harming	news	quality	and	creating	new	sources	of	economic	
instability.	
The	book’s	key	empirical	contribution	is	to	examine	how	the	material	elements	of	the	newsmaking	
process—where	journalism	is	made	and	how	it	is	made—impact	the	kind	of	news	produced	and	the	
business	model	of	journalism.		This	approach	buttresses	this	larger	argument	about	the	
reindustrialization	of	journalism,	highlighting	the	tensions	between	the	post-industrial	present	and	
the	legacy	of	the	industrial	past.	A	variety	of	qualitative	methods	are	used	to	create	a	vivid	narrative	
about	the	tensions	between	the	post-industrial	and	the	industrial,	from	historical	research	to	
ethnography	to	discourse	analysis.	The	text	brings	theories	and	insights	from	a	number	of	
disciplines:	sociology,	geography,	history,	and	journalism	studies.		The	chapters	reveal	three	
significant	insights:	first,	place	still	matters	in	the	digital	age;	second,	labor	and	production	costs	
have	to	be	an	essential	part	of	the	conversation	about	journalism	sustainability;	and	third,	digital	
production	is	harder	than	it	looks.	This	approach	is	a	critical	and	missing	link	needed	in	the	
discussion	of	the	economic	future	of	journalism,	and	ultimately,	what’s	at	stake	for	democracy	as	a	
whole.	
The	book	takes	the	reader	on	a	journey	through	the	places	where	news	gets	made,	offering	a	
history	of	news	buildings	and	details	the	impact	of	newsrooms	moving	out	of	their	historic	homes	
to	newer,	smaller	spaces.	How	printing	presses	work	and	the	tremendous	effort	of	home	delivery	
are	explored	to	emphasize	newspaper’s	ties	to	their	industrial	past—giving	additional	insight	into	
some	of	the	economic	challenges	facing	the	news	industry	that	are	often	overlooked.		Changes	in	
the	physical	environment	for	news	also	shape	how	news	gets	made,	and	the	book	looks	at	how	new	
																																																													
1		
Anderson, Chris W., Emily Bell, and Clay Shirky. Post-industrial Journalism: Adapting to the Present: a Report. Columbia
Journalism School, 2012.
efforts	to	rebuild	newsroom	architecture	have	fundamentally	reshaped	workflow	and	created	a	
seemingly	unsustainable—and	ill-advised—focus	on	continuously	updated	breaking	news.		
The	new	post-industrial	landscape	does	offer	some	opportunities.	Despite	being	tied	in	new	ways	to	
the	newsroom,	journalists	are	also	unbound	from	doing	their	work	in	the	usual	way	thanks	to	the	
opportunities	of	mobile	technology.	I	analyze	these	new	ways	of		doing	newswork	in	the	post-
industrial	age	to	show	the	reindustralization	of	workflow	and	underscore	the	costs	to	news	quality.	
The	book’s	final	section	provides	a	close	look	at	the	effects	of	the	complicated	software	required	to	
create	online	news	and	ends	with	a	discussion	of	tectonic	shift	in	the	way	that	people	get	their	
news—from	the	new	information	industrial	powerhouses	of	Google,	Facebook,	Apple	News,	and	
other	platforms	and	aggregators.	In	all,	a	material	and	spatial	analysis	of	journalism	helps	bring	
light	to	the	newspaper	crisis	in	a	way	that	highlights	both	the	importance	and	the	difficulty	of	the	
industrial	legacy	of	journalism.	The	promise	of	post-industrial	journalism	has	not	yet	been	reached,	
and	in	fact,	the	internet	actually	reindustrializes	journalism;	what’s	at	stake	if	these	tensions	remain	
unresolved	is	economic	stability	and	journalistic	authority	of	journalism	as	a	whole.	
Summary:	
This	book	turns	on	what	has	been	dubbed	post-industrial	journalism.	This	concept	claims	that	the	
physical	and	material	process	of	the	news	institution	has	been	replaced	by	a	primarily	digital	
existence.	In	the	era	of	post-industrial	journalism,	traditional	forms	of	news	distribution	have	been	
eviscerated	thanks	to	the	Web,	and	new	forms	of	online	news	outlets—niche,	non-profit,	and	
beyond—enrich	and	even	surpass	the	quality	and	role	of	existing	news	outlets	in	the	larger	media	
ecology.	The	prescription	for	traditional	news	is	quite	somber.	Post-industrial	journalism	signifies	a	
moment	in	journalism	where	the	newspaper’s	continued	vitality	as	a	formidable	institution	is	in	
question.	In	response	to	these	changes,	media	institutions	have	literally	modified	their	physical	
surroundings	to	become	digital.	We	see	new	workflows	and	new	spaces	reshaped	with	the	hope	of	
remaining	relevant	to	their	audiences	by	producing	news	geared	to	changing	expectations	in	terms	
of	content,	speed,	and	frequency.	In	many	ways,	journalism’s	traditional	industrial	process	has	been	
diminished	as	news	has	evolved	to	online,	mobile	and	other	forms.	However,	journalism	still	has	to	
have	some	of	the	machinery	of	large-scale	production	and	depends	on	some	industrial,	factory-like	
routines	in	order	to	generate	the	required	content	churn	in	the	24/7	environment.	The	result	is	that	
the	quality	of	news	in	metropolitan	journalism	has	gotten	worse.		
From	the	nineteenth	century	to	the	1960s,	newspaper	barons	could	literally	reshape	and	develop	
cities.	The	founder	of	The	Seattle	Times,	Alden	Blethen,	helped	spearhead	the	campaigns	that	
regraded	some	of	the	city’s	epic	hills	and	make	way	for	more	habitable,	stable	building	space	in	the	
bustling	metropolis	of	the	late	19th	century.	Fast	forward	to	the	1960s	boom	when	John	S.	Knight	
took	a	scrappy	part	of	Miami,	filled	with	casinos,	peep	shows,	and	the	seedy	nightclubs	favored	by	
mob	gangsters	and	built	his	new	Miami	Herald	newsroom	on	Biscayne	Bay,	which	became	an	
anchor	for	the	development	of	Miami	as	a	major	city.	Thanks	to	the	Herald’s	continual	promotion,	
the	area	became	home	to	the	American	Airlines	arena,	a	performing	arts	center,	and	a	monorail.		
Little	could	Knight	predict	that	as	this	area’s	real	estate	value	rose	that	it	would	eventually	be	the	
undoing	of	the	home	built	at	One	Herald	Plaza.	
These	great	newspaper	publishers	were	the	tech	titans	of	their	day.	The	newsrooms	they	built	were	
monuments	to	the	power	of	the	press.	The	nicknames	of	some	of	these	buildings	—“The	Rock	of	
Truth”	as	The	Dallas	Morning	News	is	known—symbolizes	the	standing	of	these	newspapers	as
respected,	powerful	journalistic	and	civic	institutions.	Moreover,	these	large	buildings,	often	the	
size	of	entire	city	blocks,	were	homages	to	the	power	and	importance	of	the	newspaper	industry.	
They	housed	giant	printing	presses	that	ran	hundreds	of	thousands	of	newspapers	each	day,	in	
multiple	editions,	supporting	a	large	staff	of	union	pressmen.		
Journalists	needed	these	large	spaces	to	do	their	work.	Newsrooms	had	actual	phone	booths,	large	
Associated	Press	machines	printing	on	large	green	paper,	and	pneumatic	tubes	that	whooshed	copy	
to	the	composing	room	down	below.	Copy	desks	were	arranged	in	large	U-shapes	with	big	wooden	
desks	to	facilitate	the	flow	of	editing.	The	newsrooms	were	full	of	people.		Even	today,	younger	
journalists,	like	those	at	the	Des	Moines	Register,	remember	a	time	when	they	could	walk	along	the	
downtown	streets	and	see	the	latest	copy	of	the	newspaper	come	off	the	printing	presses,	an	effort	
that	inspired	them	with	the	magic	and	power	of	journalism.		
Today,	though,	it	might	seem	that	newspapers	have	moved	past	their	industrial	history.	Certainly,	
there	are	far	fewer	people	in	the	newsrooms,	digital	technology	makes	it	possible	to	report	from	
anywhere,	but	most	importantly,	news	is	increasingly	less	and	less	a	physical	product.	The	business	
model	has	been	up-ended,	the	readers	have	moved	away	from	print	to	digital,	efforts	at	content	
creation	and	distribution	are	centered	around	the	Web.		Yet	newspapers	cannot	quite	move	past	
their	material	foundations	and	remain	tied	to	specific	locations:	their	print	products	and	their	news	
buildings,	and	even	when	innovating,	still	reprise	a	traditional,	industrial	model	for	workflow.	They	
must	adapt	to	confront	the	consequences	of	their	post-industrial	reality,	as	the	news	industry	can	
no	longer	rely	on	traditional	production	processes	or	distribution	channels	and	no	longer	has	a	
stable	economic	model.	
Now,	it’s	a	rare	case	when	a	newspaper	baron	even	exists	at	all	at	the	helm	of	a	major	company,	
much	less	builds	a	multi-story	showcase	to	the	glory	of	the	institution.	Newspapers	have	not	just	
shed	people,	they	have	shed	buildings.	Media	companies	have	shed	valuable	real	estate	and	block-
size	plants	in	exchange	for	leased	office	space.	They	cannot	afford	their	old	spaces,	which	are	not	
necessary	to	house	a	shrunken	workforce,	and	most	have	moved	their	presses	out	of	sight.	If	there	
is	still	a	printing	press	at	a	newspaper	building,	it	is	both	novel	and	costly—great	for	school	
children’s	field	trips	(as	it	is	at	The	Boston	Globe)	and	on	valuable	real	estate—	though	these	presses	
remain	critical	to	bringing	money	into	the	newsroom.	
Newsrooms	moving	from	old	buildings	to	news	ones	has	deep	emotional	costs	for	journalists,	and	
the	general.	For	instance,	the	empty	Miami	Herald	became	part	of	a	storyline	in	the	TV	series	Burn	
Notice,	and	in	the	show,	the	newspaper	was	blown	to	bits—literally	gone	from	the	city	(as	it	is	in	
real	life).	At	the	same	time,	these	moves	represent	an	opportunity	for	journalists,	and	new	buildings	
offer	a	chance	to	start	over.	Many	newsrooms,	if	not	most,	have	taken	this	opportunity	to	build	
what	they	see	as	newsrooms	for	the	future	–	constructing	newsroom	“hubs”	where	journalists	
generally	sit	in	concentric	circles	around	a	central	media	wall.	Often,	all	the	online	operations	will	
be	in	this	“hub.”	The	goal	is	to	create	a	streamlined	operation	for	breaking	news	in	order	to	
facilitate	getting	news	on	the	Web,	on	mobile,	and	on	social	media	as	fast	as	possible.		
However,	this	physical	reorientation	has	actually	reshaped	workflow.	Journalists	have	a	mandate	to	
produce	breaking	news,	a	focus	has	become	a	pathology	bound	up	in	a	quest	for	traffic	–	all	with	the	
goal	of	contributing	to	an	economic	bottom	line.	Ethnographers	for	years	have	contended	that	news	
is	routine,	and	in	fact	can	be	almost	factory-like,	with	journalists	bound	to	their	desks,	and	one	can	
almost	feel	the	influence	of	Taylorism	alive	and	well	in	a	newsroom	that	is	thinking	far	beyond	its
physical	print	product.	New	mobile	technologies,	though,	both	allow	for	some	flexibility	as	
journalists	find	new	ways	to	tell	stories,	and	in	other	ways,	further	propel	this	immediate	breaking	
news	content.	A	new	built	environment	that	facilitates	breaking	news,	new	technologies	that	
expand	the	space	for	breaking	news,	in	concert	with	the	myriad	of	pressures	facing	journalism	
result	in	a	brutal	cocktail	for	journalism.	Newspapers	are	now	producing	journalism	that	many	
journalists	are	not	proud	of	–	or	at	least	the	kind	of	stories	newspapers	would	have	never	published	
before:	continuous	updates	about	animals	on	the	loose,	sensational	crime,	and	“breaking”	weather	
news.	Some	journalists	literally	cannot	leave	their	seats	for	a	moment,	lest	they	miss	an	immediate	
update;	if	they	get	up,	they	might	be	unable	to	post	an	update	that	might	mean	losing	a	scoop.	The	
push	for	constant	breaking	news	not	only	results	in	a	“hamsterization”	of	news	content	–	volume	
for	volume’s	sake—but	also	reinforces	an	industrial	pattern	for	news	work.	
At	the	same	time	that	this	quest	for	breaking	news	is	happening	inside	the	newsroom,	there’s	still	
the	legacy	of	a	print	product	–	one	that	takes	a	tremendous	amount	of	effort	to	produce	from	the	
mechanical	and	manufacturing	efforts	required.	Editorial	journalists	are	shuffling	their	online	
breaking	news	into	newspapers	that	have	earlier	and	earlier	deadlines	(The	Fort	Worth	Star-
Telegram	cannot	even	print	the	night’s	baseball	scores,	deadlines	are	so	early).	But	newspapers	still	
need	their	presses	and	their	print	products	to	survive.	So	it’s	essential	to	understand	just	how	
extensive	(and	costly)	the	manufacturing	process	and	operation	costs	of	creating	a	print	newspaper	
still	are,	which	often	goes	overlooked	when	thinking	about	the	difficulties	of	creating	a	sustainable	
online	model.	In	particular,	these	costs	have	a	deep	industrial	legacy:	everything	from	the	paper	to	
the	union	pressmen	to	the	space	required	to	print	the	newspaper	adds	up.	And	then	there’s	the	
distribution	process:	sending	out	delivery	trucks	and	to	drivers	who	then	distribute	newspapers	to	
subscribers	who	live	further	and	further	apart.		
On	the	other	hand,	though,	so	much	about	producing	and	distributing	a	newspaper	is	digital.	And	it	
is	in	these	digital	details	–	which	are	very	much	part	of	the	post-industrial	reality	of	journalism—
that	newspapers	face	some	difficulties	that	are	absolutely	critical	to	overcome.	For	years,	
newspapers	have	relied	on	content	management	systems	to	manage	the	print	and	the	Web	content	
prior	to	production. In one system, Méthode, it	can	take	up	to	33	different	steps	just	to	get	a	single	
photo	on	the	Web.	This	material	aspect	of	news	production	is	so	often	overlooked	by	cultural,	
social,	and	economic	analyses	of	the	news	industry.	But	these	efforts	may	not	even	matter-		as	post-
industrial	journalism	posits-	journalism	has	had	its	traditional	distribution	processes	upended.	This	
could	be	no	more	true	than	articles	shared	as	distributed	content	–	through	platforms	like	
Facebook,	Google,	Apple	News,	and	beyond.	The	book	ends	with	a	discussion	of	how	these	difficult	
digital	adaptations	can	be	understood	as	a	material	concern	of	journalism,	and	considers	the	irony	
of	these	struggles	in	light	of	journalism’s	roots	in	its	industrial	past.	The	costs	of	software,	
hardware,	and	the	new	titans	of	industries,	technology	companies,	underscore	how	journalism	may	
be	reindustrialized	through	new	forms	of	vertical	and	horizontal	integration	and	new	pathways	for	
production.	
This	project	offers	new	insights	into	the	challenges	and	opportunities	facing	traditional	print	
journalism	today.	While	there	is	a	dose	of	history	to	tell	us	about	the	powers	of	newspapers	past,	it	
is	also	a	story	of	what	actually	happens	inside	newsrooms.	Through	thick	field	research	that	
captures	newspapers	in	transition,	we	get	a	vibrant	portrait	of	what	journalists	are	thinking,	feeling	
and	doing.	And	instead	of	simply	focusing	on	the	Northeastern	Corridor,	we	visit	The	Seattle	Times,	
The	Miami	Herald,	The	Star-Telegram	(Fort	Worth),	and	The	Des	Moines	Register,	as	well	as	The	New
York	Times,	The	Washington	Post,	and	The	Boston	Globe.	Some	highlights	from	the	UK	are	also	
introduced.	This	is	not	a	story	of	decline,	though	some	stories	here	tell	of	decline;	but	one	of	
reinvention.	The	fate	of	journalism	needs	to	be	understood	through	symbols	as	well	as	stories,	
through	the	buildings	and	the	physical	manifestations	of	journalists	and	the	actual	workflows	of	
how	journalists	go	about	their	work.		
Chapter	Outline:	
Introduction:	
The	book	begins	with	an	overview	of	post-industrial	journalism:	what	it	means	and	how	we	see	it	
manifest	in	today’s	newsroom.	Daniel	Bell’s	idea	of	post-industrialism	dates	back	to	the	late	70s,	
and	a	landmark	whitepaper	published	from	leading	thinkers	at	Columbia	University’	School	of	
Journalism	helped	mesh	some	of	his	concepts—which	are	a	bit	different—	into	the	framework	of	
journalism.	The	first	chapter	builds	a	more	robust	theory	of	post-industrial	journalism,	comparing	
the	idea	of	post-industrial	in	journalism	to	other	industries	(particularly	the	auto	industry),	
showing	that	labor,	product	and	people	have	become	contingent	and	removed	from	the	predictable	
patterns	of	an	industrial,	manufacturing	past.	The	post-industrial	framework	is	strongly	connected	
to	a	geospatial	and	material	approach.	Space,	place,	and	“things”	root	us	in	the	past	and	present,	
connecting	us	to	where	journalism	is	made	and	how	it	is	made—and	the	differences	between	the	
physical	underpinnings	required	to	make	news	and	its	digital	existence.	
To	make	these	connections	and	set	a	theoretical	framework	for	the	book,	a	brief	outline	of	the	
relevance	of	thinkers	like	Bell,	Manuel	Castells,	and	David	Harvey,	connect	post-industrial	
journalism	to	how	that	people	relate	to	physical	spaces	and	places	and	material	things.	This	
discussion	returns	to	a	more	grounded	and	practical	discussion	of	the	state	of	journalism	today.	
This	chapter	will	also	introduce	our	key	case	studies,	The	Seattle	Times,	The	Miami	Herald,	The	Fort	
Worth	Star-Telegram,	and	The	Des	Moines	Register,	chosen	because	they	underscore	the	impact	of	
post-industrial	journalism	in	metropolitan	journalism	as	it	unfolds	across	the	nation.			
Newsroom	Barons,	Cities	of	News,	and	Industrial	Memories		
Newsroom	barons	like	Amon	Carter	Sr.	of	Fort	Worth,	the	founder	of	the	Star-Telegram,	who	made	
his	money	in	advertising,	and	Gardner	Cowles,	of	the	Des	Moines	Register,	who	came	from	a	small	
town	called	Altoona,	Iowa,	have	life	stories	that	are	written	as	legends	by	admirers.	They	not	only	
built	newspapers	but	also	changed	the	cities	where	they	lived	–	Carter	modernized	in	Fort	Worth,	
while	Cowles	actually	spurred	the	development	of	Iowa’s	transportation	system	so	he	could	deliver	
newspapers	across	the	state.	They	and	their	heirs	built	newsrooms	to	match	their	egos.	Inside,	the	
machinery	matched	the	industrial	scale	of	the	time,	with	giant	machines	and	large	work	forces	
handling	the	laborious	process	from	written	word	to	metal	plate	back	to	printed	words	again.	This	
chapter	discusses	both	the	industrial	barons	and	the	industrial,	manufacturing	processes	that	used	
to	put	together	the	print	paper.		
Giving	some	insight	into	the	days	when	news	buildings	were	erected	to	show	the	public	the	might	
of	journalism’s	power,	and	looking	back	at	the	difficult	processes	required	to	go	from	story	to	
finished	product	gives	the	reader	a	real	sense	of	journalism’s	industrial	past.	A	discussion	of	news	
buildings	helps	remind	the	reader	that	newspapers	were	the	tech	companies	of	the	day.		This	
historical	chapter,	which	traces	both	the	manufacturing	past	and	the	importance	of	the	built	
environment	sets	up	the	rest	of	the	chapters.	This	material	history	of	newspaper	manufacturing
and	the	importance	of	the	news	building	has	not	yet	been	analyzed	together.	With	this	chapter,	we	
can	set	in	motion	a	discussion	of	where	news	gets	produced—and	how	it	was	made—and	why	this	
cultural	context	for	understanding	journalism	helps	us	better	understand	the	current	situation	
facing	the	news	industry.	
Newsroom	moves:	Des	Moines	and	Miami	
The	next	chapter	takes	us	to	the	present	situation	facing	journalism	through	this	geospatial	and	
material	lens.	Perhaps	the	biggest	sign	that	there	has	been	a	distinct	departure	in	journalism	from	
its	industrial	past	is	that	newspapers	have	shed	their	giant	homes—these	news	factories—and	have	
moved	to	new	buildings.		Some	of	these	new	newsrooms	are	modest,	some	are	showpieces,	all	are	
smaller.	In	a	post-industrial	era,	newspapers	can	no	longer	support	the	large	staffs	–	or	justify	the	
expense	of	keeping	the	real	estate	that	was	a	testament	to	the	greatness	of	times	past.	The	trend	of	
newsrooms	moving	news	buildings	is	analyzed,	underscoring	why	news	organizations	are	making	
these	changes	and	what	they	hope	to	gain.	The	connection	between	the	physical	capital	of	the	news	
building	and	the	cultural	capital	of	the	newspaper	is	discussed.	
This	chapter	looks	specifically	at	the	role	of	newspaper	buildings	as	a	way	to	investigate	the	post-
industrial	journalism	phenomena.	Two	newsrooms	are	examined:	The	Miami	Herald	and	The	Des	
Moines	Register.	The	story	of	each	newsroom	is	told	as	it	moves	from	its	historic	home	to	a	new	one,	
but	the	two	newspapers	could	not	be	more	different;	in	Miami,	the	tale	is	one	of	decline,	while	in	
Des	Moines,	history	is	mourned,	but	a	new	chapter	has	begun—a	welcoming	of	the	post-industrial	
challenge	for	journalism	in	the	digital	age.	The	Des	Monies	Register	journalists	left	a	newspaper	
building	so	old	that	even	the	marble	stairs	had	been	worn	down,	but	the	newsroom	remains	in	the	
center	of	the	city	and	the	building	is	a	new	showpiece	for	Des	Moines—much	like	the	old	
newsrooms	of	the	early	20th	century.	In	Miami,	however,	the	newspaper	has	moved	to	the	
outreaches	of	the	city—near	the	airport—which	has	left	journalists	worrying	about	the	future	of	
The	Miami	Herald	brand,	its	connection	to	the	community,	and	even	its	ability	to	cover	significant	
stories.		
The	Hub		
Post-industrial	journalism	signals	a	departure	away	from	the	focus	on	mechanical	processes	of	
production	(e.g.	the	print	product)	in	exchange	for	a	new,	primary	focus	on	a	digital-first	product.	
To	make	this	kind	of	newsroom	a	reality,	newspapers	have	turned	to	a	physical,	material	solution	to	
try	to	solve	this	digital	challenge.	When	newsrooms	move	from	their	old	buildings	into	new	ones,	
many	take	the	opportunity	to	use	architecture	to	establish	editorial	priorities.	Across	the	US	and	the	
world,	newsrooms	are	assembling	their	news	operations	around	breaking	news	“hubs,”	often	
concentric	circles,	or	spokes	radiating	from	one	central	desk	configuration	in	a	newsroom—
generally	surrounded	by	huge	walls	of	TVs.	The	stated	goal	is	to	facilitate	communication	in	order	
to	speed	up	the	breaking	news	process.	And,	as	many	of	these	editors	and	journalists	will	tell	you,	
they	believe	breaking	news	is	directly	correlated	to	Web	traffic	success,	which	leads	in	turn	to	
economic	returns.	
The	Telegraph	in	London	might	be	most	famous	for	its	“hub”;	in	2006,	it	was	one	of	the	first	
newsrooms	to	try	this	configuration.	As	part	of	the	research	for	this	book,	I	journeyed	there	to	meet	
with	the	person	in	charge	of	continually	adjusting	and	readjusting	newsroom	space	(including	
reconfiguring	newsroom	bookshelves	and	plants).	But	the	book	takes	a	closer	look	at	how	these	
hubs	really	work	to	re-socialize	a	staff’s	communication	patterns	through	further	insights	gained
from	our	key	case	studies	of	Seattle,	Miami,	Des	Moines	and	Fort	Worth.	I	examine	how	
communication	processes	are	changed,	and	how	architecture	–	the	built	environment,	the	desks,	
the	set-up	of	the	newsroom	(the	space,	place,	and	the	material)	communicates	editorial	priorities.	
Each	newsroom’s	aspirations	are	examined,	and	readers	are	given	a	sense	of	how	these	hubs	
actually	work.	This	sets	the	stage	for	the	next	chapter,	which	examines	how	these	new	spatial	
configurations	impact	the	news	production	process.		
Workflow	and	the	Hamster	Wheel	
Journalists	have	created	these	newsroom	hubs	in	response	to	specific	pressures	of	the	post-
industrial	news	environment—journalism	that	moves	faster	than	ever	before	in	an	accelerated	
digital	environment.	But	we	need	to	ask	another	question:	in	an	effort	to	respond	to	this	context	for	
journalism,	have	newspapers	just	re-inscribed	some	of	the	industrial	processes	that	leave	them	
vulnerable	to	the	very	concerns	they	are	trying	to	escape,	such	as	the	loss	of	readers,	and	the	
diminished	role	of	newspapers	in	a	community?		
What	we	find	is	that	newsroom	hubs	enable	a	larger	move	toward	the	institutionalization	of	work	
processes	that	emphasize	more,	faster,	breaking	news.	This	process	for	creating	news	literally	
mimics	the	kind	of	industrial	process	one	might	think	of	from	the	old	auto	companies;	it	is	highly	
routine,	and	if	journalists	leave	their	desks,	if	even	for	a	moment,	they	may	lose	a	scoop	to	a	
competitor	(most	often,	the	local	TV	station).	Journalism	has	been	turned	into	what	has	been	called	
“hamster-wheel”	journalism,	volume	for	volume’s	sake,	more	news	faster	and	faster.	The	physical	
surrounds	contribute	to	this	feeling;	the	large	screens	of	real-time	analytics	seen	across	newsrooms	
and	social	media	twitter	feeds	seen	across	the	newsroom	help	reinforce	that	there	is	no	time—	
journalists	feel	they	are	in	a	high-stakes	environment	where	ever	story	can	help	build	or	lose	
precious	traffic,	which	might	ultimately	harm	or	hurt	the	bottom	line.	As	other	scholars	have	
shown,	the	pumping	heart	of	Chartbeat	analytics	literally	has	an	emotional	consequence	on	
journalists.	
Some	newsrooms,	though,	are	more	hamster-like	than	others.	We	can	see	this	workflow	and	
mentality	in	play	in	Fort	Worth	and	Miami,	where	every	story	at	every	time	through	every	medium	
is	chased.	On	the	other	hand,	The	Des	Moines	Register	and	The	Seattle	Times,	tactically	consider	their	
metrics.	This	does	not	mean	slowing	down	the	pace	of	news.	As	these	newspapers	compete	in	a	
post-industrial	environment,	working	to	beat	television,	blogs,	and	other	competitors	in	the	local	
media	ecosystem,	and	scramble	for	readers,	we	can	actually	see	and	hear	how	the	content	of	news	
changes.	The	chapter	considers	how	the	material	aspects	of	the	journalists’	environment,	and	the	
spatial	configurations	for	how	and	where	they	do	their	work	might	impact	the	push	toward	
immediate	news	content,	but	the	chapter	also	shows	how	the	newsroom	is	re-inscribing	an	
industrial	process	back	into	newswork.	
Journalists	Without	a	Newsroom	
So	far,	one	might	get	the	sense	that	the	post-industrial	setting	for	journalism	has	created	enormous	
stress	and	strain—and	the	tensions	between	the	industrial	past	make	the	future	for	journalism	look	
bleak.	This	is,	of	course,	partly	true.	On	the	other	hand,	the	new	technologies	for	journalism	also	
create	new	opportunities—and	nowhere	is	this	clearer	than	in	the	innovations	that	enable	
reporting	from	the	field.	Just	as	the	newsroom	is	being	recreated	in	physical	space,	journalists	now	
more	than	ever	are	encouraged	to	go	off	and	use	technology	to	report	from	anywhere.	Non-experts
are	encouraged	by	newsroom	managers	to	take	risks	with	mobile	tools,	and	newsrooms	like	The	
Des	Moines	Register	have	tried	out	new	portable	cameras	in	the	midst	of	breaking	news.		
	Mobile	journalism	of	some	sort	has	had	a	long	history,	but	today’s	mobile	technology	–	from	text	to	
photo	to	video	to	social	media–	is	distinctly	different	because	of	the	instant	capacities	for	publishing	
and	mass	distribution.	And	for	better	or	worse,	while	mobile	technology	is	an	opportunity	for	new	
forms	of	storytelling,	this	instant	connection	facilitates	the	next	step	in	driving	the	immediate	news	
process.	Journalists	live-tweet	from	their	phones,	carry	around	iPads,	and	are	expected	to	report	in	
real	time.	Other	contradictions	emerge:	while	mobile	tools	also	mean	that	the	production	of	once	
labor-intensive	processes,	like	photography,	no	longer	require	the	same	tools,	oddly,	newsrooms	
are	responding	to	new	demands	for	digital	video	and	patterns	of	news	consumption	by	building	
elaborate	video	studios.	Mobile	technology	can	become	just	the	rough	draft	for	something	more	
highly	produced	in	the	newsroom,	which	further	enshrines	the	news	building	as	the	space	for	doing	
work.	The	chapter	ends	with	a	reflection	about	whether	newsrooms	still	matter	as	a	site	for	doing	
newswork:	some	journalists	disagree	whether	there	really	is	a	need	for	a	central	space	of	
production	anymore	and	what	purpose	a	newsroom	might	even	serve	thanks	to	portable	
technology,	but	the	efforts	put	into	building	newsroom	hubs	and	elaborate	multimedia	facilities	
suggest	that	there’s	more	to	the	story.	
What	Makes	News:	Physical	Materials	of	News	
The	problem	with	journalists	not	knowing	about	what	actually	drives	an	economic	model	is	that	
they	still	need	to	produce	a	print	paper,	which	is	incredibly	expensive–	The	New	York	Times,	for	
example,	acknowledges	that	70	percent	of	its	operating	costs	are	spent	on	producing	the	print	
product.	While	print	makes	most	of	the	money,	this	is	no	longer	a	good	investment	because	print	
circulation	is	dropping	precipitously,	year	after	year,	and	the	costs	of	print	production	take	away	
from	money	that	could	be	spent	on	new	directions,	improvements,	and	even	risks	that	the	company	
might	take.	Creating	a	print	newspaper	is	a	tremendous	manufacturing	effort,	and	the	return	on	this	
investment	is	shrinking.	One	of	the	best	ways	to	cut	costs	(in	addition	or	instead	of	cutting	labor)	
would	be	to	cut	print	production—as	newspapers	in	Ann	Arbor,	New	Orleans,	and	elsewhere	have,	
but	then	newspapers	must	make	up	the	balance	with	digital	revenue,	and	the	chapter	will	briefly	
look	at	the	consequences	of	cutting	a	print	paper.	The	loss	of	print	in	these	communities	has	
marked	the	end	of	much	of	the	newspaper’s	cultural	capital	in	the	community.	
The	main	focus	of	this	chapter,	though,	will	look	at	the	physical	and	material	processes	of	creating	a	
newspaper,	visiting	first	a	modern	printing	plant	to	understand	more	fully	what	it	actually	takes	to	
print	a	contemporary	paper,	and	then	accompanying	newspaper	deliverymen	and	women	as	they	
go	through	the	increasingly	inefficient	process	of	delivering	print	papers.2	Aside	from	a	few	articles	
in	periodicals	like	Popular	Mechanics,	there’s	been	little	coverage	of	the	massive	efforts	and	the	
process	of	print	production	and	almost	no	discussion	of	the	people	other	than	the	journalists	who	
work	on	these	presses.	Ideally,	I	will	travel	to	The	Boston	Globe,	which	still	has	its	press	in	its	news	
building—at	least	until	it	moves	in	September	2016.	The	newspaper	had	a	delivery	problem	where	
journalists	were	actually	asked	to	help	deliver	newspapers.	Interviews	with	these	journalists	and	
delivery	drivers	will	add	richness	to	the	discussion	of	the	high	costs	and	inefficiencies	associated	
with	the	print	product.	This	chapter	drives	home	the	inability	to	move	entirely	past	industrial	
models	and	why	journalism	finds	itself	in	such	a	liminal	state.	
																																																													
2	I	have	not	gotten	field	access	as	of	yet.
Technologies	and	The	Process	of	Post-Industrialism	
Post-industrial	journalism	means	that	journalists	face	new	challenges	from	technology	that	changes	
how	news	is	distributed	and	produced.	News	organizations	have	attempted	through	new	content	
management	systems	(CMS)	to	digitize	and	simplify	the	process	to	make	digital	work	easier,	but	
this	can	only	do	so	much.	These	content	management	systems	make	the	difference	between	speed	
online	and	even	Google	search	results.	Some	news	organizations,	like	The	Washington	Post,	are	even	
marketing	superior	systems	to	their	competitors.	When	this	is	compared	to	online-only	companies,	
newspapers’	efforts	are	laughable;	for	Buzzfeed,	its	content	systems	is	part	of	what	makes	it	a	half-
tech,	half-media	company	appealing	to	venture	capital.	Dealing	with	content	is	hard,	getting	the	
words	actually	from	the	screen	into	a	readable	format—for	print	or	for	web—is	absolutely	critical	
to	newsroom	survival.	While	the	biggest	news	organizations	have	been	able	to	streamline	content	
management	systems	that	are	growing	more	and	more	sophisticated—to	the	point	of	embedding	
suggested	links	and	offering	forms	of	predicted	analytics	tools—other	news	organizations	are	stuck	
with	one-size	fits	all	models	that	are	leaving	them	behind.	Digital	production	costs	money,	and	
these	costs	are	often	not	accounted	for	when	arguments	about	the	reduced	costs	of	contemporary	
information	technology.	
The	book	will	end	by	arguing	that	the	Internet	has	reindustrialized	journalism.	The	fundamental	
distribution	processes	of	journalism	have	changed—particularly	with	the	rise	of	distributed	
content,	or	news	that	reaches	readers	through	platforms	other	than	a	news	organization	
(principally	via	social	media).	Emily	Bell,	of	Columbia,	has	written	about	how	Facebook	has	
swallowed	news,	while	others,	such	as	Matthew	Hindman,	of	George	Washington	University,	have	
talked	about	how	economies	of	scale	dominate	the	web.	The	chapter	closes	with	a	look	at	how	the	
new	titans	of	industry—Google,	Facebook,	Snapchat	and	Apple,	among	others—are	setting	up	new	
“operating	costs”	for	traditional	journalism.	The	book	ends	with	a	discussion	of	the	tension	between	
the	old	industrial	patterns,	the	fundamental	challenges	to	journalism	first	outlined	by	the	Columbia	
report	and	shows	how	this	book	helped	empirically	illustrate	some	of	the	difficulties	in	place.	
Author	Information:	
Nikki	Usher,	PhD	is	an	assistant	professor	at	The	George	Washington	University	School	of	Media	
and	Public	Affairs.	She	is	the	author	of	Making	News	at	The	New	York	Times	(University	of	Michigan	
Press,	2014),	winner	of	the	Association	for	Mass	Communication	in	Education	in	Journalism’s	
Tankard	Award	for	book	of	the	year.	She	is	most	recently	the	author	of	Interactive	Journalism:	
Hackers,	Data,	and	Code	(forthcoming,	University	of	Illinois	Press,	2016).	Usher,	a	past	Tow	Fellow	
at	Columbia’s	Journalism	School	and	a	past	fellow	at	the	University	of	Missouri’s	Reynolds	Institute,	
has	written	and	researched	about	the	future	of	journalism	for	a	variety	of	academic	publications	
including	New	Media	and	Society,	Journalism,	Journalism	Studies,	Journalism	Practice,	Media	Culture	
and	Society	and	others.	She	was	formerly	a	journalist	and	also	frequently	writes	for	The	Columbia	
Journalism	Review	and	has	been	a	past	contributor	to	Nieman	Journalism	Lab.	She	received	her	PhD	
and	MA	from	the	University	of	Southern	California’s	Annenberg	School	for	Communication	and	her	
AB	magna	cum	laude	from	Harvard	University.	
Market:	
My	first	published	book	was	a	successful	crossover	academic	and	industry	book	that	I	know	has	
been	read	by	both	journalists	and	academics	and	is	currently	a	required	reading	for	a	number	of	
journalism	undergrad	and	graduate	classes.	My	writing	combines	in-depth	academic	research	with
good	storytelling	and	narrative	and	make	my	work	approachable	for	journalists,	students,	and	
academics.	It	is	my	sense	that	this	book’s	historical	content	and	the	book’s	theme	give	it	a	longevity	
and	the	data	will	remain	relevant	to	the	argument	over	time	even	as	journalism	changes.	This	will	
make	it	more	appealing	to	academics	and	professors	looking	for	material	for	their	classes.		In	
addition	to	the	journalism	audience,	there	is	the	broader	communication	field	as	well	as	
sociologists,	and	geography	scholars	that	will	be	interested	in	my	focus	on	materialism	and	
industry,	as	these	are	topics	often	explored	in	these	fields,	and	increasingly	so.	The	theory,	too,	
draws	primarily	from	these	fields,	so	there	is	a	natural	tie	to	these	audiences.	Its	strong	methods	
and	multi-sited	case	study	approach	may	also	make	it	marketable	as	a	sample	methods	text	for	
qualitative	fields	looking	for	examples	of	this	kind	of	research.		
This	subject	has	also	received	attention	and	coverage	already	from	the	mainstream	press.	The	
earlier	report	was	just	recently	quoted	in	The	Washington	Post	and	Politico	after	The	Post	moved	
newsrooms,	and	has	been	referenced	in	The	Minneapolis	Star-Tribune	and	The	Columbia	Journalism	
Review.		
Competition	
Anderson,	C.W.,	Bell,	E.	and	Shirky,	C.	(2012).	Post-Industrial	Journalism:	Adapting	to	the	Present.	
New	York:	Tow	Center	for	Digital	Journalism,	Columbia	University	
This	is	the	whitepaper	from	which	I	draw	my	work.	It	is	complementary	rather	than	necessarily	
competition,	and	while	it	gives	excellent	focus	on	the	economic	disintegration	of	the	industry	of	
journalism,	it	does	not	turn	its	attention	to	the	process	or	material	construction	of	newspapers	and	
is	mainly	focused	on	new	types	of	journalism.	
Ryfe,	D.	(2013).	Can	Journalism	Survive:	An	Inside	Look	at	American	Newspapers.	Malden,	MA:	Polity.	
This	is	a	book	about	regional	newspapers	set	in	2008	in	the	depth	of	the	financial	crisis.	It	sets	a	
fundamentally	negative	tone	of	the	impossibility	of	journalism’s	survival,	and	while	it	is	
ethnography,	it	is	aided	(but	perhaps	hampered	in	its	audience)	by	a	rich	discussion	of	field	theory	
and	other	Big	T	theory,	while	my	book	will	use	this	theory	as	rationale	rather	than	constant	
application	for	its	argument.	
Anderson,	C.W.	(2013).	Rebuilding	the	News:	Metropolitan	Journalism	in	the	Digital	Age.	
Philadelphia:	Temple	University	Press.	
This	book,	also	a	strong	book	about	metropolitan	news,	does	something	slightly	different	in	that	its	
focus	is	an	in-depth	ethnography	on	The	Philadelphia	Inquirer,	The	Philadelphia	Daily	News’	and	the	
local	news	ecosystem	in	the	changes	from	print	to	digital.		
Batsell,	J.	(2015).	Engaged	Journalism:	Connecting	With	Digitally	Empowered	Audiences.	New	York:	
Columbia	University	Press.	
This	is	an	exemplary	book	that	also	looks	at	some	of	the	economic	problems	facing	journalism,	but	
focuses	on	the	issue	of	how	journalism	can	improve	its	relationship	with	audiences.	Mobile	
technology	is	discussed,	which	makes	the	book	a	good	compliment	to	mine.	This	is	an	audience	
book,	while	mine	is	a	production	book,	so	they	could	be	sold	and	packaged	together.	
Kennedy,	D.		(2013).	The	Wired	City:	Reimagining	Journalism	and	Civic	Life	in	the	Post-Newspaper	
Age.	University	of	Michigan	Press.
This	book	is	only	a	competitor	in	that	it	asks	some	larger	questions	about	what	we	are	to	do	when	
the	traditional	newspaper	model	fails	–	as	it	had	in	New	Haven	when	the	big	news	coverage	
declined	in	the	city.	But	the	title	isn’t	really	what	the	book	is	about	–	the	book	is	more	a	story	of	
nonprofit	journalism.	
This	competition	suggests	that	there	is	interest	in	metropolitan	news,	interest	in	this	problem,	and	
interest	in	the	questions	I	have	been	asking,	but	that	the	questions	I	am	asking	and	will	answer	
have	not	yet	been	directly	addressed	yet.	
Additional	Information	and	Specs	
My	guess	is	that	the	book	would	be	between	80,000	to	90,000	words.	I	do	have	some	excellent	
photos	I	have	taken	of	the	newspaper	buildings	and	newspaper	hubs	that	may	be	fun	to	use	as	well	
as	some	pictures	of	analytics	boards.	I	also	hope	to	take	pictures	of	presses	or	pressmen	or	some	
more	material	work.	Perhaps	15	pictures	at	most,	though	I	would	like	flexibility	for	more	or	less.	
Right	now,	the	plan	for	completion	includes	beginning	work	on	this	in	mid-May.	I	will	need	to	
complete	additional	work	and	potentially	update	data,	particularly	for	the	industrial	production	
chapter.	I	hope	to	receive	money	from	my	university	to	fill	in	any	holes	in	the	data,	but	to	me,	the	
existing	data	is	evergreen	for	this	project	because	of	its	richness	and	the	argument	I	am	creating	
(there	are	122	interviews,	field	observations,	and	dozens	of	meetings;	280	pages	of	single-spaced	
field	notes).	I	will	need	to	do	some	archival	research	this	summer	as	well	at	the	Library	of	Congress.	
I	hope	to	do	the	bulk	of	the	writing	starting	in	Spring	2017	for	possible	submission	in	Fall	2018.	
Previous	and	related	work:	
Some	of	the	data	has	been	published	previously	in	the	Tow	Report	I	produced	and	in	a	journal	
article	about	the	Miami	Herald.	I	also	plan	to	write	an	article	on	immediacy	and	economic	survival	
that	has	a	different	emphasis.	But	these	journal	articles,	while	using	some	crossover	data	are	pretty	
different.	The	white	paper	I	include	here	was	very	practical:	how	can	journalists	do	their	work	
better	–	and	didn’t	really	focus	on	some	of	the	more	symbolic	and	material	implications	–	and	it’s	
also	shorter	and	less	contextualized	in	post-industrialism,	even	though	that	is	the	title	of	the	report	
(note:	this	was	produced	under	a	creative	commons	license	so	there	is	no	problem	with	rights).		I	
also	strayed	away	from	being	too	critical	because	of	the	expected	audience.	The	Miami	Herald	
article	has	some	good	data	for	a	case	study,	but	is	abbreviated,	too	deeply	in	the	weeds	and	
formulaic.	Basically,	anything	I	write	for	the	book	has	to	have	a	narrative,	it	has	to	have	an	arc,	and	
the	data	has	to	tell	a	story.	The	journal	articles	are	really	specific	and	very	narrow,	and	don’t	tell	the	
big,	broad	story	in	any	compelling	way	–	they	can	help	the	book,	and	will	help	promote	the	book,	
but	do	not	compete	with	the	book.	I	have	done	similar	journal	articles	as	complementary	to	my	
Interactive	Journalism:	Hackers,	Data,	and	Code	book	and	it	worked	quite	well.	
Other	Materials	
I	have	attached	for	your	reference	the	Tow	report	and	the	journal	article	on	The	Miami	Herald.	My	
first	book	is	available	for	free	on	the	University	of	Michigan	Press	website		should	you	need	an	
additional	sample.

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