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.

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

Coleen O'Lear   Back to basics

Mike Ragsdale   A smarter information diet

S.P. Sullivan   Baking transparency into our routines

Alice Antheaume   A new test for French media

Almar Latour   Thanks, #fakenews

Ariane Bernard   Better data about your users

P. Kim Bui   The year journalism teaches again

Dan Colarusso   Let’s make live video we can love

Christopher Meighan   Unlocking a deeper mobile experience

Millie Tran   International expansion without colonial overtones

Aja Bogdanoff   Comments start pulling their weight

Peter Sterne   A dangerous anti-press mix

Swati Sharma   Failing diversity is failing journalism

Mira Lowe   News literacy, bias, and “Hamilton”

Molly de Aguiar   Philanthropists galvanize around news

Burt Herman   Local news gets interesting

Emi Kolawole   From empathy to community

Cindy Royal   Preparing the digital educator-scholar hybrid

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

Sam Ford   The year we talk about our awful metrics

Vivian Schiller   Tested like never before

David Skok   What lies beyond paywalls

Erin Pettigrew   A year of reflection in tech

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

Tim Herrera   The safe space of service journalism

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

Katie Zhu   The year of minority media

Adam Thomas   The coming collaboration across Europe

Dhiya Kuriakose   The year of digital detoxing

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

Gabriel Snyder   The aberration of 20th-century journalism

Mark Armstrong   Time to pay up

Mario Garcia   Virtual reality on mobile leaps forward

Andrew Losowsky   Building our own communities

Reyhan Harmanci   Bear witness — but then what?

Rubina Madan Fillion   Snapchat grows up

Trushar Barot   API or die

Caitlin Thompson   High touch, high value

Javaun Moradi   What can we own?

Jon Slade   Trusted news, at a premium

Mary Meehan   Feeling blue in a red state

Sue Schardt   Objectivity, fairness, balance, and love

Priya Ganapati   Mobile websites are ready for reinvention

Olivia Ma   The year collaboration beats competition

Dannagal G. Young   The return of the gatekeepers

Emily Goligoski   Incorporating audience feedback at scale

Nathalie Malinarich   Making it easy

Ken Schwencke   Disaggregation and collection

Bill Adair   The year of the fact-checking bot

Laura E. Davis   Show your work

Mandy Velez   The audience is the source and the story

Liz Danzico   The triumph of the small

Sara M. Watson   There is no neutral interface

Doris Truong   Connecting with diverse perspectives

Mary Walter-Brown   Getting comfortable asking for money

Umbreen Bhatti   A sense of journalists’ humanity

Kathleen Kingsbury   Print as a premium offering

Matt Karolian   AI improves publishing

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

Sarah Marshall   Focusing on the why of the click

Tanya Cordrey   The resurgence of reach

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

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

Michael Kuntz   Trust is the new click

Cory Haik   Navigating power in Trump’s America

Errin Haines Whack   Chaos or community?

Francesco Marconi   The year of augmented writing

Andrew Haeg   The year of listening

Tracie Powell   Building reader relationships

Elizabeth Jensen   Trust depends on the details

Asma Khalid   The year of the newsy podcast

Guy Raz   Inspiration and hope will matter more than ever

Bill Keller   A healthy skepticism about data

M. Scott Havens   Quality advertising to pair with quality content

Juan Luis Sánchez   Your predictions are our present

Jonathan Hunt   Measurement companies get with the times

Rebekah Monson   Journalism is community-as-a-service

David Chavern   Fake news gets solved

Pablo Boczkowski   Fake news and the future of journalism

Geetika Rudra   Journalism is community

Kawandeep Virdee   Moving deeper than the machine of clicks

Moreno Cruz Osório   The year of transparency in Brazilian journalism

Alberto Cairo   Communicating uncertainty to our readers

Sydette Harry   Facing journalism’s history

Taylor Lorenz   “Selfie journalism” becomes a thing

Ashley C. Woods   Local journalism will fight a new fight

Megan H. Chan   Cultural reporting goes mainstream

Laura Walker   Authentic voices, not fake news

Robert Hernandez   History will exclude you, again

Rachel Schallom   Stop flying over the flyover states

Juliette De Maeyer and Dominique Trudel   A rebirth of populist journalism

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Truthiness in private spaces

Libby Bawcombe   Kids board the podcast train

Amy O'Leary   Not just covering communities, reaching them

Andrew Ramsammy   Rise of the rebel journalist

Lee Glendinning   A call for great editing

Erin Millar   The bottom falls out of Canadian media

Scott Dodd   Nonprofits team up for impact

Annemarie Dooling   UGC as a path out of the bubble

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting stratifies into hard layers

Dan Gillmor   Fix the demand side of news too

Ole Reißmann   Un-faking the news

Amie Ferris-Rotman   Вслед за Россией

Joanne Lipman   The year of the drone, really

Keren Goldshlager   Defining a focus, and then saying no

Steve Henn   The next revolution is voice

Tim Griggs   The year we stop taking sides

Liz McMillen   The year of deep insights

Alexis Lloyd   Public trust for private realities

Nicholas Quah   Podcasting’s coming class war

Helen Havlak   Chasing mobile search results

Jonathan Stray   A boom in responsible conservative media

An Xiao Mina   2017 is for the attention innovators

Amy Webb   Journalism as a service

Melody Kramer   Radically rethinking design

Ray Soto   VR moves from experiments to immersion

Claire Wardle   Verification takes center stage

Zizi Papacharissi   Distracted journalism looks in the mirror

Jim Friedlich   A banner year for venture philanthropy

Julia Beizer   Building a coherent core identity

Andrea Silenzi   Podcasts dive into breaking news analysis

Rachel Sklar   Women are going to get loud

Michael Oreskes   Reversing the erosion of democracy

Jeremy Barr   A terrible year for Tiers B through D

David Weigel   A test for online speech

Margarita Noriega   From pinning tweets to tweeting pins

Carla Zanoni   Prioritizing emotional health

Samantha Barry   Messaging apps go mainstream

Ståle Grut   The battle for high-quality VR

Mathew Ingram   The Faustian Facebook dance continues

Matt Waite   The people running the media are the problem

Corey Ford   The year of the rebelpreneur

Hillary Frey   Forests need to burn to regrow

Andy Rossback   The year of the user

Renée Kaplan   Pure reach has reached its limit

Carrie Brown-Smith   We won’t do enough

Sarah Wolozin   Virtual reality on the open web

Ryan McCarthy   Platforms grow up or grow more toxic

Felix Salmon   Headlines matter