By Brooke WarnerLMA contributor

Through trials and crises, local media organizations have adapted to operational, technological, and personnel shifts instigated by the spread of COVID-19 — all the while covering the pandemic’s impact on communities.

Knowing social distancing protocols and remote work will likely persist for the next year or longer, we interviewed a variety of local media organizations to understand the ways COVID-19 has changed how they operate, what tools have facilitated transition efforts, and what the current and future media industry looks like through their eyes. Four takeaways emerged.

1. Culture and adoption mattered most when transitioning to a digital-focused future.

Companies used to working remotely or with dispersed teams had less friction, while television broadcasters carried a burden of rethinking broadcasts from home. Zoom, Slack, and Microsoft Teams emerged as convenient tech solutions.

2. COVID accelerated and amplified digital transformation for all local media companies.

Companies interviewed for the report immediately became hyperfocused on advancing digital projects that had potentially only ever been on a wish list. The crisis has helped many organizations develop an eagle eye around priorities, even the unexpected ones like significant spikes in email security issues.

3. Success has been promising but challenging.

Local media executives reflected optimistically on the last six months, characterizing their efforts as successful in various ways and pointing to the resilience of staff. Some companies said significant operational cost savings offset lost revenue, and some, finding that productivity soared, have vowed never to return to the old way of doing business.

4. No one knows what the future holds, but everyone is better prepared.

While some local media organizations thrived in the upheaval of outdated setups, others eagerly await the chance to get back into their home spaces from which they feel they can best serve their communities and each other. All respondents said COVID might have given us a taste of the future, but left no one with clear visions for what’s to come.

The full report, produced through the Local Media Innovation Alliance (LMIA), highlights interviews with Graham Media Group, Swift Communications, Real Times Media, Shaw Media, and Local Independent Online (LION) Publishers, whose leaders detail useful tips for managing a distributed workforce and helping local media organizations thrive, even during an ongoing crisis. Learn lessons from some major industry players and get fresh perspectives on operating as a local media business during an extended pandemic.

LMA member companies that subscribe to LMIA receive the report for free. Non-subscribers can purchase the report for $149.