Credit: Andrew Garthwaite for the Distributed Newsroom Playbook

The Distributed Newsroom Playbook

Fergus Bell
Published in
3 min readApr 6, 2020


A new resource to support newsrooms to quickly return to full functionality in a world that has been turned upside down.

With the start of social distancing policies as a response to the COVID-19 crisis, newsrooms have quickly had to reconfigure as distributed, digital spaces. We are going to be working within distributed frameworks for a significant amount of time, far beyond the immediate crisis and disruption the start of this outbreak has caused.

The Distributed Newsroom Playbook from Fathm, supported by the Google News Initiative, has been designed to help organisations chart a sustainable path forward.

Our industry needs to prepare for the long haul now because our survival has never been more under threat while at the same time we have never been needed more. There are immense challenges to the business of news but as our audiences continue to rely on us to meet their needs we must be able to serve them and to do that we have to return to full functionality with a world that has been turned upside down.

It’s likely that this shift will not end with the end of COVID-19, and it is our hope that with this playbook newsrooms can better imagine how to harness some of the benefits of distributed work and avoid some of the common pitfalls.

Designed to meet our most immediate needs, this first version of the playbook includes the following sections:

Many newsrooms are already applying some of the practices and technologies we are recommending, so please consider this guide as a holistic resource that can offer some new ideas and strategies.

We also know that with fast change and unprecedented disruption, long term strategic thinking is a luxury. The experts in newsroom innovation who have contributed to the playbook have tried to do some of this forward thinking for you while you are doing incredibly important work to cover the impact of the global pandemic.

We believe it’s important to think of the current shift not as one to “remote work” — which conjures images of the lonely lighthouse keeper — but rather to “distributed teams” — where a sense of unity and common purpose is retained, and some of the collegial spirit and human care of physical spaces is translated to a digital world.

As innovative solutions to new challenges emerge, we will update the playbook with case studies, new technologies, and new strategies for working effectively as a distributed team. We’ll also take on board your suggestions for additional areas this needs to cover in order to help newsrooms operate sustainably in the long term.

The Distributed Newsroom Playbook has been produced by Fathm. For questions or suggestions for how this could be expanded please contact

Thank you to the Google News Initiative for their support.



Fergus Bell
Editor for

Journalist & Consultant at Fathm | Founder @PopUp_EU || Digital newsgathering, newsroom workflows, UGC, verification, voice assistants, collaboration.