The buzz of local journalism will soon be leaving its longtime home on Sixth Street in Allentown.
The Tribune Co., owner of the Morning Call, confirmed that it will be shuttering the doors of the daily newspaper’s offices at 101 North Sixth Street in Allentown.
Max Reinsdorf, chief of staff for the Chicago-based Tribune Co., said with the COVID-19 pandemic it has been safer for staffers to work remotely.
“Out of an abundance of caution we do not anticipate having employees that can work remotely coming back into the office for the remainder of the year and into 2021. With no clear path forward in terms of returning to work, and as the company evaluates its real estate needs in light of health and economic conditions brought about by the pandemic, we have made the difficult decision to permanently close the office,” he said in a statement.
Speaking to Lehigh Valley business, he clarified that the newspaper, itself will continue.
“We are leaving the physical office on Sixth Street, but we’re not shuttering the newsroom,” Reinsdorf, said. “We’re asking people to work from home.”
Staff have been told they should have their work areas cleaned out by mid-September.
The newspaper vacating the building doesn’t come as much of a surprise. The Tribune Co. has not owned the building since 2016 when it sold the structure to City Center Development Corp., the company behind much of the recent development in downtown Allentown.
Still, the closure of the building is a sad milestone for many of the reporters who currently work in the building or who have worked there over the years.
“It Stings,” said former Morning Call Allentown beat reporter, Joe McDermott, who now works in the real estate industry. “I’ve been out of there for 14 years and it still stings.”
While he decried the death of the newspaper industry, nationally, as someone now working in commercial real estate in the Lehigh Valley he understands the reason The Call is vacating the building.
As the newspaper industry has struggled over the years The Morning Call, like all other daily newspapers, has been reducing its staff size. Staff is now a fraction of the size the building was intended for.
“That real estate property is too valuable to sit there nearly vacant and [City Center Development Corp.] certainly knows that and I’m sure has ideas for the property,” McDermott speculated.
Reinsdorf said he could not comment on whether or not the newspaper’s staff would be relocated to a smaller building or would continue to work from home. The company’s evaluation of its real estate needs is ongoing, he said, but with the current pandemic conditions he doesn’t expect to end remote working in the near future.