Romenesko posted Friday a photo of Halifax Media Group’s new wardrobe policy, which in addition to obvious no-nos like “transparent clothing,” forbids jeans, T-shirts and hats in the newsroom. The following day, he posted an email from a reader whose paper banned employees from wearing jeans and listening to music at their desks.
Rules like these are so much of what’s wrong with the newspaper industry. They’re insulting and repressive, and they repel the young journalists organizations need to be trying to lure.
These are adults. Most, if not all, are college-educated and have the common sense to know how to look and act professional at their jobs. They don’t need to be told what to wear. Choosing to do so — even if as a safeguard — shows little confidence in them. It also demonstrates how disconnected the people who make the decisions (and the money) often are from the people who make the product. Would you send a photographer in slacks to cover a flood? Not if you want a good shot.
The least corporate media can do is create a comfortable atmosphere for their staffs. Deadlines and competition make newsrooms stressful enough. Then layoffs, reorganizations, automation and various other cost-cutters make bigger workloads for shrinking staffs.
Readers can’t tell a page designer wore jeans or a reporter conducted a phone interview at home in pajamas because their source waited until 10:30 p.m. to call back. I’ve done both, with no detriment to my work. They can’t tell a copy editor was listening to her “Hits of the 90s” Pandora station so she could tune out a reporter’s phone conversations one cube over. So instead of over-regulating the newsroom, how about rewarding the people who are busting their tails with the freedom to do what they need to be productive?