Media News

Labor coverage rebounding due to COVID

January 13, 2022

Posted by Chris Roush

Former New York Times labor reporter Steven Greenhouse writes for Nieman Reports about how coverage around labor and workplace issues is rising due to COVID-19.

Greenhouse writes, “But in the last dozen years, there has been a resurgence of the labor beat, largely fueled by two developments: the Great Recession, which saw the jobless rate jump to 10 percent, and the rise of digital media, which often tilts to the left and has many readers who are interested in how American workers are treated — or mistreated. In 2020, as the pandemic took hold, labor stories became many of the nation’s biggest news stories: the millions of workers laid off when businesses shuttered temporarily, the risks facing grocery and transit workers, the dangers facing health care workers, the abuse flight attendants receive from passengers refusing to wear masks, the work-from-home revolution, the many frightened teachers who wanted their schools closed. More recently, other pandemic-related labor stories have leapt onto the front page, including the debate over vaccine mandates for workers, the labor shortage in many industries, and the record number of Americans quitting their jobs in what has been called the Great Resignation. ‘The pandemic has really been a galvanizing event in terms of labor coverage,’ said Christopher Martin, a professor of digital journalism at the University of Northern Iowa.

“With the flood of workplace stories in this unprecedented moment, it seems likely that labor coverage will remain strong and perhaps even grow. In decades past, labor reporters usually focused on covering labor unions, their strikes, and contract negotiations. Today, the beat has expanded to include everything from how Uber treats its drivers to some Amazon workers not having enough time to go to the bathroom to issues like the #MeToo movement, work-family balance, and the lack of childcare.”

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