Local news gets interesting

“Going deep with local news means creating uniquely valuable journalism, rather than fighting the traffic battle against dozens of hot takes on Washington’s latest twists and turns.”

Journalism, we’ve got a problem. We have a huge blind spot in coverage of much of the United States, something that became glaringly obvious with the surprise many felt in Donald Trump’s presidential election win. There are millions of people who are profoundly shaken by our increasingly globalized world. They aren’t seeing the benefits of urbanization and automation, but instead feel slapped in the face by what coastal elites hail as an inevitable march of progress.

burt-hermanLocal journalism has been decimated by the decline of newspapers and industry consolidation. We need to do better, and parachute journalism by large media outlets won’t give local communities the journalism they need. It will take a serious commitment to coverage that shines an unflinching light on their stories, and holds local and national governments and businesses accountable for the impact of their actions at the county, city and town level.

Local news is finally getting more attention, and this will accelerate in 2017. New players are figuring out how to build native digital local properties. Spirited Media launched in Philadelphia and last year in Pittsburgh, and Whereby.us started in Miami and has now spread to Seattle. They are building new technology infrastructure and business models for local news that can scale, hiring savvy local journalists who are starting small and operate free of legacy burdens. Local sites are getting smarter on strategy and collaborating on lessons learned. For example, Voice of San Diego recently launched an initiative to share how they use Salesforce to grow and retain membership.

There are also new nonprofit initiatives (like the Institute for Journalism in New Media that I recently joined as director of innovation projects) which aim to apply startup thinking and a focus on business sustainability to the issue. ProPublica has announced they are launching in Illinois in 2017 and plan to expand their investigative reporting to more states.

Going deep with local news means creating uniquely valuable journalism, rather than fighting the traffic battle against dozens of hot takes on Washington’s latest twists and turns. As engagement increasingly becomes the media metric of choice, local is ideal for building deep connections between journalists and the communities they serve. There is much more experimentation to be done in collaborating creatively with the public, using technologies like Hearken, GroundSource, and Nextdoor — and more that haven’t yet been created.

Building unique products is also critical as the media business model shifts to subscriber and member revenue, with less reliance on advertising. People are willing to pay for something they can’t get anywhere else, and local also opens up new ways to make money through events and services.

We’ve learned from past failures on local. The coming year will see many new experiments to create a sustainable model that won’t just benefit the communities being covered — but also lift our democracy and make all society better for it.

Burt Herman is director of innovation projects at the Institute for Journalism in New Media in Philadelphia.

Emi Kolawole   From empathy to community

Ole Reißmann   Un-faking the news

Nushin Rashidian   A rise in high-price, high-value subscriptions

Swati Sharma   Failing diversity is failing journalism

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   News after advertising may look like news before advertising

Cindy Royal   Preparing the digital educator-scholar hybrid

Mandy Velez   The audience is the source and the story

Lam Thuy Vo   The primary source in the age of mechanical multiplication

Michael Kuntz   Trust is the new click

Ken Schwencke   Disaggregation and collection

Burt Herman   Local news gets interesting

Millie Tran   International expansion without colonial overtones

Elizabeth Jensen   Trust depends on the details

Sydette Harry   Facing journalism’s history

Alberto Cairo   Communicating uncertainty to our readers

Mary Meehan   Feeling blue in a red state

Mark Armstrong   Time to pay up

Caitlin Thompson   High touch, high value

Tressie McMillan Cottom   A path through the media’s coming legitimacy crisis

Javaun Moradi   What can we own?

Michael Oreskes   Reversing the erosion of democracy

Jonathan Hunt   Measurement companies get with the times

Zizi Papacharissi   Distracted journalism looks in the mirror

Mary Walter-Brown   Getting comfortable asking for money

Carrie Brown-Smith   We won’t do enough

Mathew Ingram   The Faustian Facebook dance continues

Liz Danzico   The triumph of the small

Renée Kaplan   Pure reach has reached its limit

Hillary Frey   Forests need to burn to regrow

Amy O'Leary   Not just covering communities, reaching them

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Earn trust by working for (and with) readers

Samantha Barry   Messaging apps go mainstream

Olivia Ma   The year collaboration beats competition

Tanya Cordrey   The resurgence of reach

Guy Raz   Inspiration and hope will matter more than ever

Tracie Powell   Building reader relationships

Taylor Lorenz   “Selfie journalism” becomes a thing

Jim Friedlich   A banner year for venture philanthropy

Aja Bogdanoff   Comments start pulling their weight

Erin Pettigrew   A year of reflection in tech

Katie Zhu   The year of minority media

Priya Ganapati   Mobile websites are ready for reinvention

Jonathan Stray   A boom in responsible conservative media

Dan Gillmor   Fix the demand side of news too

Sue Schardt   Objectivity, fairness, balance, and love

Tim Griggs   The year we stop taking sides

P. Kim Bui   The year journalism teaches again

An Xiao Mina   2017 is for the attention innovators

Reyhan Harmanci   Bear witness — but then what?

Andrew Haeg   The year of listening

Jon Slade   Trusted news, at a premium

Margarita Noriega   From pinning tweets to tweeting pins

Maria Bustillos   “It’s true — I saw it on Facebook”

Amie Ferris-Rotman   Вслед за Россией

Scott Dodd   Nonprofits team up for impact

David Chavern   Fake news gets solved

Bill Adair   The year of the fact-checking bot

Felix Salmon   Headlines matter

Steve Henn   The next revolution is voice

Vivian Schiller   Tested like never before

Christopher Meighan   Unlocking a deeper mobile experience

Juan Luis Sánchez   Your predictions are our present

Laura Walker   Authentic voices, not fake news

Joanne Lipman   The year of the drone, really

Matt Waite   The people running the media are the problem

S.P. Sullivan   Baking transparency into our routines

Matt Karolian   AI improves publishing

Dhiya Kuriakose   The year of digital detoxing

Alice Antheaume   A new test for French media

Pablo Boczkowski   Fake news and the future of journalism

Laura E. Davis   Show your work

Coleen O'Lear   Back to basics

Peter Sterne   A dangerous anti-press mix

Amy Webb   Journalism as a service

Mira Lowe   News literacy, bias, and “Hamilton”

Jeremy Barr   A terrible year for Tiers B through D

Andrew Ramsammy   Rise of the rebel journalist

Kawandeep Virdee   Moving deeper than the machine of clicks

Ray Soto   VR moves from experiments to immersion

Kathleen Kingsbury   Print as a premium offering

Nicholas Quah   Podcasting’s coming class war

Juliette De Maeyer and Dominique Trudel   A rebirth of populist journalism

Moreno Cruz Osório   The year of transparency in Brazilian journalism

Mario Garcia   Virtual reality on mobile leaps forward

Alexis Lloyd   Public trust for private realities

Cory Haik   Navigating power in Trump’s America

Andy Rossback   The year of the user

Rebekah Monson   Journalism is community-as-a-service

Ashley C. Woods   Local journalism will fight a new fight

Nathalie Malinarich   Making it easy

Bill Keller   A healthy skepticism about data

Rachel Schallom   Stop flying over the flyover states

Doris Truong   Connecting with diverse perspectives

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting stratifies into hard layers

Trushar Barot   API or die

Dannagal G. Young   The return of the gatekeepers

Emily Goligoski   Incorporating audience feedback at scale

Tim Herrera   The safe space of service journalism

M. Scott Havens   Quality advertising to pair with quality content

Errin Haines Whack   Chaos or community?

Julia Beizer   Building a coherent core identity

Francesco Marconi   The year of augmented writing

Corey Ford   The year of the rebelpreneur

Keren Goldshlager   Defining a focus, and then saying no

Umbreen Bhatti   A sense of journalists’ humanity

Claire Wardle   Verification takes center stage

Gabriel Snyder   The aberration of 20th-century journalism

Lee Glendinning   A call for great editing

Robert Hernandez   History will exclude you, again

Anita Zielina   The sales funnel reaches (and changes) the newsroom

Dan Colarusso   Let’s make live video we can love

Geetika Rudra   Journalism is community

Andrea Silenzi   Podcasts dive into breaking news analysis

Asma Khalid   The year of the newsy podcast

Liz McMillen   The year of deep insights

Melody Kramer   Radically rethinking design

Erin Millar   The bottom falls out of Canadian media

David Weigel   A test for online speech

Almar Latour   Thanks, #fakenews

Sam Ford   The year we talk about our awful metrics

Sarah Marshall   Focusing on the why of the click

Carla Zanoni   Prioritizing emotional health

Libby Bawcombe   Kids board the podcast train

Ståle Grut   The battle for high-quality VR

Andrew Losowsky   Building our own communities

Sarah Wolozin   Virtual reality on the open web

Rubina Madan Fillion   Snapchat grows up

Molly de Aguiar   Philanthropists galvanize around news

Sara M. Watson   There is no neutral interface

Ryan McCarthy   Platforms grow up or grow more toxic

Mike Ragsdale   A smarter information diet

Adam Thomas   The coming collaboration across Europe

Megan H. Chan   Cultural reporting goes mainstream

Rachel Sklar   Women are going to get loud

David Skok   What lies beyond paywalls

Ariane Bernard   Better data about your users

Richard J. Tofel   The country doesn’t trust us — but they do believe us

Annemarie Dooling   UGC as a path out of the bubble

Helen Havlak   Chasing mobile search results

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Truthiness in private spaces