We won’t do enough

“We’ll debate and have panels, and talk past each other.”

In years past, most Nieman Lab annual predictions correctly centered around how journalism will grapple with rapidly changing technology in the coming year. How would we adapt to digital, social, mobile, VR, and other advances that affect the distribution, reporting, and nature of news? We knew these changes would affect the industry profoundly, and many used this space to offer thoughtful and accurate predictions on how.

carrie-brown-smithBut in 2017, I know I’m not alone in thinking that our focus will turn away from technology to even weightier issues surrounding truth, trust, and even the survival of our democracy, which depends on a free and vibrant press. How can we combat “fake news” or, more accurately, propaganda? How can we do our jobs when both the left and the right are increasingly vociferous in their condemnation of our work? (And no, having everybody hate us doesn’t mean we are “doing it right.”) How do we do our jobs with an administration that is openly hostile to the press?

The Fourth Estate is in crisis, and as I’ve written previously, I am desperately hoping that we respond with a roar, not a whimper. We must fearlessly call out lies and propaganda despite the relentless pressure to be stenographers. We must commit to listening and empathy, and not just to the usual suspects — and by this I do not mean coming to the absurd conclusion that our biggest coverage blindspot involved white men. We must continue to punch up, but also spend more time on getting a bottom-up understanding of the concerns and goals of the people we serve. We must double-down on diversity in newsrooms and the internal communication that makes it possible for different perspectives to be heard. We must not just continue to rigorously check the facts but explain to the public how we do so and why it matters.

But this is supposed to be a prediction, not an admonition. Will we do this?

I’m afraid the answer is “not enough.” We’ll debate and have panels, and talk past each other. Many will pound the lectern haranguing us on their rigid, intellectually bereft notions of what objectivity means in journalism, even though years ago The Elements of Journalism helped us understand what decades of great scholars have long known, that objectivity is a method, not some kind of magical spell that somehow removes any biases from individual reporters and editors. We will fight false equivalence, but we’ll still see it emerge on many fronts, especially cable news.

There will be many brave journalists — some of them my former students, if I may so brag — that will be working to not just tell stories and uncover wrongdoing but also to find creative ways to use their skills to work with communities and not just for them to solve problems. They will be working not just at startups but also working inside larger, more traditional news organizations, trying to change the culture and think about new approaches to news. I can only hope they succeed. I’ll be working as hard as I can to be sure that they do.

Carrie Brown-Smith is director of the social journalism program at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

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Andrew Ramsammy   Rise of the rebel journalist

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

Mark Armstrong   Time to pay up

Emi Kolawole   From empathy to community

Molly de Aguiar   Philanthropists galvanize around news

David Skok   What lies beyond paywalls

Andrew Losowsky   Building our own communities

Mike Ragsdale   A smarter information diet

Corey Ford   The year of the rebelpreneur

Renée Kaplan   Pure reach has reached its limit

Felix Salmon   Headlines matter

Mario García   Virtual reality on mobile leaps forward

Carrie Brown-Smith   We won’t do enough

Jonathan Stray   A boom in responsible conservative media

Cory Haik   Navigating power in Trump’s America

Mira Lowe   News literacy, bias, and “Hamilton”

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting stratifies into hard layers

Elizabeth Jensen   Trust depends on the details

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Ken Schwencke   Disaggregation and collection

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Liz McMillen   The year of deep insights

Andrew Haeg   The year of listening

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Adam Thomas   The coming collaboration across Europe

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Katie Zhu   The year of minority media

Ray Soto   VR moves from experiments to immersion

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Emily Goligoski   Incorporating audience feedback at scale

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Michael Oreskes   Reversing the erosion of democracy

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Claire Wardle   Verification takes center stage

Ole Reißmann   Un-faking the news

Umbreen Bhatti   A sense of journalists’ humanity

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Jim Friedlich   A banner year for venture philanthropy

Moreno Cruz Osório   The year of transparency in Brazilian journalism

Francesco Marconi   The year of augmented writing

Matt Waite   The people running the media are the problem

Sue Schardt   Objectivity, fairness, balance, and love

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Sara M. Watson   There is no neutral interface

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

Annemarie Dooling   UGC as a path out of the bubble

Millie Tran   International expansion without colonial overtones

Jonathan Hunt   Measurement companies get with the times

Sam Ford   The year we talk about our awful metrics

Tim Griggs   The year we stop taking sides

Rachel Sklar   Women are going to get loud

David Chavern   Fake news gets solved

Lee Glendinning   A call for great editing

Cindy Royal   Preparing the digital educator-scholar hybrid

Julia Beizer   Building a coherent core identity

Matt Karolian   AI improves publishing

Juliette De Maeyer and Dominique Trudel   A rebirth of populist journalism

Mary Meehan   Feeling blue in a red state

Dhiya Kuriakose   The year of digital detoxing

Zizi Papacharissi   Distracted journalism looks in the mirror

Guy Raz   Inspiration and hope will matter more than ever

Amie Ferris-Rotman   Вслед за Россией

S.P. Sullivan   Baking transparency into our routines

Almar Latour   Thanks, #fakenews

Pablo Boczkowski   Fake news and the future of journalism

Asma Khalid   The year of the newsy podcast

Andy Rossback   The year of the user

Peter Sterne   A dangerous anti-press mix

Burt Herman   Local news gets interesting

Nathalie Malinarich   Making it easy

Alice Antheaume   A new test for French media

Ståle Grut   The battle for high-quality VR

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Truthiness in private spaces

Bill Keller   A healthy skepticism about data

Doris Truong   Connecting with diverse perspectives

Scott Dodd   Nonprofits team up for impact

Christopher Meighan   Unlocking a deeper mobile experience

Sydette Harry   Facing journalism’s history

Jeremy Barr   A terrible year for Tiers B through D

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

Gabriel Snyder   The aberration of 20th-century journalism

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Javaun Moradi   What can we own?

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

Erin Millar   The bottom falls out of Canadian media

M. Scott Havens   Quality advertising to pair with quality content

Erin Pettigrew   A year of reflection in tech

Tanya Cordrey   The resurgence of reach

Amy O'Leary   Not just covering communities, reaching them

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