The new journalism commons

“How might we design open-ended systems for news production built around common pooled resources to collectively address critical issues, such as verification or the digital divide?”

The discussion about the role of the commons in journalism seems to have vanished, along with many other themes that once captured the public discourse on the future of news. The commons might even sound like an archaism of the early days of digital journalism —like cyberspace or message boards. But resources shared by a group of people can be a powerful social structure, and it’s one worth revisiting in the context of journalism and its current challenges.

As Elinor Ostrom, Charlotte Hess, and others have explained, when knowledge began to be transferred from libraries and archives to the web, it took on more and more characteristics of the commons, and more and more of the commons’ dilemmas — such as congestion, free riding, degradation, and enclosure. The addition of journalistic information and resources to this shared repository has not abated.

The journalism commons as a resource system, independent of particular property rights, include — but are not limited to — code repositories freely available in sites like GitHub; the myriad of online tutorials, reports, and education resources created by journalism schools and independent organizations to teach new skills; the communities formed around conferences, meetups, and collaborations between news organizations, journalism schools, and others; open databases on critical issues such as police misconduct; and open source software providing a new technological infrastructure for journalism, such as the JavaScript library D3 for data visualization, or SecureDrop, the widely used whistleblower submission system.

Looking at journalistic resources through the lens of the commons reveals “a new (i.e., newly recognized) cultural form that is unfolding in front of us,” using David Bollier’s expression, with profound implications for how news organizations, journalism schools, and foundations participate in the creation of shared resources as a new infrastructure for journalism. How might we design open-ended systems for news production built around common pooled resources to collectively address critical issues, such as verification or the digital divide? How might we harness collective action and social capital to protect and grow shared resources for journalism? Following again Ostrom and Hess, a commons requires clarity, skilled decision-making abilities, and cooperative management strategies to create robust systems. It’s time to revisit the role of the journalism commons in the creation of a sustainable news world.

Carlos Martínez de la Serna is director of digital innovation at Univision News.

John Keefe   Scooped by AI

Borja Echevarría   TV goes digital, digital goes TV

Ariana Tobin   Too tired to tap

L. Gordon Crovitz   Serving readers over advertisers

Tracie Powell   The muting of underserved voices

Zizi Papacharissi   Women come back

Sally Lehrman   Trust comes first

Mario García   Storytelling finally adapts to mobile

Felix Salmon   Covering bitcoin while owning bitcoin

Nancy Watzman   Know thy TV

Trushar Barot   The Jio-fication of India

Corey Ford   The empire strikes back

Ståle Grut   Reclaiming audience interaction from social networks

Adam Thomas   Sharing is caring: The year of the mentor

David Skok   Finding an information-life balance

Monique Judge   Letting black women tell their own stories

Tamar Charney   We get serious about algorithms

Matt Thompson   Here come the attention managers

Vanessa K. DeLuca   Women’s voices take center stage

Jennifer Choi   Standing up for us and for each other

Andrew Losowsky   The year of resilience

Pablo Boczkowski   The rise of skeptical reading

Amy King   Let’s amplify visual voice

Raju Narisetti   Mirror, mirror on the wall

Rick Berke   Value is the watchword

Tanya Cordrey   Finally, the seeds of radical reinvention

Charo Henríquez   Training is an investment, not an expense

Marie Gilot   No assholes allowed

Joanne McNeil   Gatekeeping the gatekeepers

Sara M. Watson   Feeds will open up to new user-determined filters

Michelle Ferrier   The year of the great reckoning

Yvonne Leow   The rise of video messaging

Christopher Meighan   Passive partnership is in the rearview

Carrie Brown-Smith   Transparency finally takes off

Will Sommer   The year local media gets conservative

Michael Kuntz   The only pivot that might work

Evie Nagy   Pivot to mobile video frustration

Taylor Lorenz   Social and media will split

Ruth Palmer   Risks will grow for news subjects — especially minorities

Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán   The editorial meeting of the future

Jared Newman   Venture funding and digital news don’t mix

Miguel Castro   The arrival of the impact producer

Jake Levine   The return to now

Alfred Hermida   Going beyond mobile-first

S. Mitra Kalita   The arc of news and audience

Mi-Ai Parrish   Blockchain and trust

Tanzina Vega   It’s time for media companies to #PassTheMic

Marcela Donini and Thiago Herdy   Collaboration is the way forward for Brazilian journalism

Sam Sanders   Shine the light on ourselves

Luke O'Neil   The end is already here

Lanre Akinola   Making noise is not a strategy

Dan Newman   A return to trust

Justin Kosslyn   The year journalists become digital security experts

Kyle Ellis   Let’s build our way out of this

Hossein Derakhshan   Television has won

Rubina Madan Fillion   Unlocking the potential of AI

Eric Ulken   The year local publishers get smart(er) about change

Jennifer Coogan   The future is female

Mariana Moura Santos   Think local, act global

Dannagal G. Young   Stop covering politics as a game

Lam Thuy Vo   Breaking free from the tyranny of the loudest

Jarrod Dicker   Honesty in advertising

Mira Lowe   The year of the local watchdog

Jessica Parker Gilbert   Design connects storytelling and strategy

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Fortifying social media from automated inauthenticity

Craig Newmark   Working together toward sustainable solutions

Emily Goligoski   Looking beyond news for inspiration

Laura E. Davis   Writing answers before you know the question

Kristen Muller   The year of the voter

Helen Havlak   Keywords, not publishers, power the world’s biggest feeds

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   Skepticism and narcissism

Francesco Marconi   The year of machine-to-machine journalism

Mandy Velez   texting is lit rn, fam

Susie Banikarim   R.I.P. Pivot to Video (2017–2017)

Kinsey Wilson   Facebook and Google: Help out or pay up

Richard J. Tofel   The platforms’ power demands more reporters’ attention

Jacqui Cheng   Retailers move into content

Emma Carew Grovum   Newsroom culture becomes a priority

Vivian Schiller   Pivot to tomorrow

Cory Haik   Suffering from realness, pivoting to impact

Monika Bauerlein   The firehose of falsehood

Jim Brady   With the people, not just of the people

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Seeking trust in fragmented spaces

Juliette De Maeyer   A responsible press criticism

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Publishing less to give readers more

Frédéric Filloux   External forces

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   The Snapchat scenario and the risk of more closed platforms

Alexios Mantzarlis   Moving fake news research out of the lab

Matt Boggie   The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

Kawandeep Virdee   Zines had it right all along

Usha Sahay   Wallets get opened

Burt Herman   Things get real

Nikki Usher   The year of The Washington Post

Aron Pilhofer   We can’t leave the business to the business side any more

Rodney Gibbs   Tech workers turn to journalism

Umbreen Bhatti   The trust problem isn’t new

Amy Webb   Listen to weak signals

Jamie Mottram   From pageviews to t-shirts

Rachel Davis Mersey   AI, with real smarts

Edward Roussel   Eyes, ears, and brains

Jim Moroney   Newspapers have to be good enough for readers to pay for

Raney Aronson-Rath   Transparency is the antidote to fake news

Michelle Garcia   Navigating journalistic transparency

Sarah Marshall   Loyalty as the key performance indicator

Feli Sánchez   The year for guerrilla user research

Neha Gandhi   Filler killers

Mike Caulfield   Refactoring media literacy for the networked age

Debra Adams Simmons   And a woman shall lead them

Imaeyen Ibanga   Longform video leads the way

Pete Brown   Push alerts, personalized

Renée Kaplan   The year of quiet adjustments (shhh)

Manoush Zomorodi   Self-help as a publishing strategy

Daniel Trielli   The rich get richer, the poor scramble

Sam Ford   The year of investing in processes

Bill Keller   A growing turn to philanthropy

Lucas Graves   From algorithms to institutions

Sue Schardt   Jump the niche

Nushin Rashidian   Publishers seek ad dollar alternatives

Errin Haines Whack   At the ballot, it’s time to count black women

Jesse Holcomb   Information disorder, coming to a congressional district near you

Julia Beizer   A longer view on the pivot

Carlos Martínez de la Serna   The new journalism commons

Alan Soon   The rise of start of psychographic, micro-targeted media

Corey Johnson   The pro-fact resistance

Brian Lam   Sketchy ethics around product reviews

Andrew Haeg   The year journalists become relationship builders

Nicholas Quah   Stop talking trash about young people

Cristina Wilson   The year of the Instagram Story

Matt DeRienzo   A recession, then a collapse

Caitlin Thompson   Podcasting models mature and diversify

Mariano Blejman   News games rule

Steve Grove   The midterms are an opportunity

Kim Fox   Audience teams diversify their approach

Paul Ford   Go global

Cindy Royal   Your journalism curriculum is obsolete

Andrew Ramsammy   The year ownership mattered

Basile Simon   We need better career paths for news nerds

Millie Tran and Stine Bauer Dahlberg   (Hint: It’s about your brand)

Dan Shanoff   You down with OTT? (Yeah, DTC)

Caitria O'Neill   The new court of public opinion

Rodney Benson   Better, less read, and less trusted

Alice Antheaume   Are you fluent in AI?

Niketa Patel   Live journalism comes of age

Kathleen McElroy   Building a news video experience native to mobile

Sydette Harry   Listen to your corner and watch for the hook

Elizabeth Jensen   Show your work

Joyce Barnathan   It will be harder to bury the news

Mary Meehan   Real lives are at stake in rural areas

Tim Carmody   Watch out for Spotify

Rachel Schallom   Better design helps differentiate opinion and news

Damon Krukowski   Reviving the alt-weekly soul

Hannah Cassius   The year of the echo-chamber escapists

Joanne Lipman   Journalists inventing revenue streams

Almar Latour   Conquering calm

Federica Cherubini   The rise of bridge roles in news organizations

Amie Ferris-Rotman   More female reporters abroad (please)

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   Women of color will reclaim and monetize our time

Doris Truong   Computer vision vs. the Internet vigilantes

An Xiao Mina   Memes and visuals come to the fore

Alastair Coote   The year of self-improvement

Eric Nuzum   Beyond the narrative arc

Pia Frey   Address users as individuals

Kelsey Proud   No, no, no

Julia B. Chan   Looking for loyalty in all the right places

Ray Soto   VR reaches the next level

Heather Bryant   Building the ecosystems for collaboration

Molly de Aguiar   Good journalism won’t be enough

P. Kim Bui   The reckoning is only beginning

Claire Wardle   Disinformation gets worse

Mary Walter-Brown   Show a little vulnerability

José Zamora   Revenue-first journalism

Jassim Ahmad   Thriving on change

C.W. Anderson   The social media apocalypse

Matt Carlson   Attacks on the press will get worse

Nathalie Malinarich   Peak push

Dheerja Kaur   Fun with subscription products