2
0
1
9

Journalism wants to be your friend, not your teacher

“Media is moving back from a 20th-century mass market to a collection of artisans who keep close ties with specific patrons, based on shared social, cultural and normative understandings.”

For many New Yorkers, the 17-day newspaper strike of 1945 was a trying ordeal. For communication researcher Bernard Berelson, it was an opportunity to understand what reading the newspaper meant to people, and what they were missing when denied it.

What he found was that people not only missed the “rational” purpose of news, such as obtaining current information, but also (and more so) the “non-rational” ones, like strengthening social ties, acquiring social prestige and fostering a sense of belonging. In a way, children who could no longer read the comic strips with their parents were at a greater loss than the adults who read the paper to keep track of international and financial news.

News consumption is often conceptualized as a cerebral activity that attests to our ability to be rational, truly modern citizens. But for some years now, in attempt to connect with readers and get them interested (and also get them to pay), news organizations have been increasingly addressing these soft benefits, reinventing themselves not as an authoritative instructor — but as a friend that keeps you up to date.

They do so, among other things, by talking to readers informally online and offline, offering access to clubs and events, repackaging subscription programs as “memberships”, and catering to social identities and shared values across different dimensions of the product — from share-baiting op-eds to the language used in subscription pitches.

This shift is the direct result of some foundational changes in the media industry. Most people have access to many more news sources than they had 20 years ago, so they can select their news on the basis of much more nuanced criteria. News organizations can no longer rely on funding from mass advertising, especially not online, so they are asking individuals to invest in a direct relationship with them.

Trust issues play a growing part in supporting that sensibility, too. People may not trust news organizations as much, but they will trust a friend with whom they have a lot in common.

This is one reason why in 2019, the media will try even harder to become your trusted friend. Journalism now seeks to be embedded in our social life, not only our intellectual activities. Increasingly, it pleads not only to our cerebral side, but also to social affinities and shared values.

For some, these developments are troubling, as they represent a weakening of shared knowledge and identity among national publics. Others point to their potential for engaging and mobilizing news consumers based on greater personal relevance. Either way, the signs are abundant that media is moving back from a 20th-century mass market to a collection of artisans who keep close ties with specific patrons, based on shared social, cultural and normative understandings.

This new landscape comes with a substantial challenge, on which we have to do much better this century than they did in the past. When news becomes your friend and depends on your voluntary contribution, the playing field is no longer level, and some communities and individuals are at much greater risk of falling behind. One of the defining challenges in the coming decades is making sure that professional news doesn’t become a luxury product. News organizations must find a way to borrow the positive qualities of friendship without reproducing its exclusivity.

Efrat Nechushtai is a PhD candidate in communications in the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and a research fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism.

Heather Bryant   We are responsible for how we use our power

Thomas Hanitzsch   The rise of tribal journalism

Carrie Brown-Smith   Advocating a healthy civic life is no journalistic crime

Glyn Mottershead and Martin Chorley   When a tech company pulls the plug on your story

Steve Grove   A reckoning for tech’s work with news

Simon Rogers   Data journalism becomes a global field

Josh Schwartz   A pullback from platforms and a focus on product

Renée Kaplan   Our future could lie within our own organizations

Kate Myers   Journalism continues to be bad for democracy

Mike Caulfield   Ditch the media literacy cynicism and get to work

Bill Adair   Another year fighting Trump’s falsehoods

Alexis Lloyd & Matt Boggie   The year product leads media

Zizi Papacharissi   Old interface, say hello to the new interface

Ernie Smith   The year we step back from the platform

Eric Ulken   The year you actually start to like your CMS

Salem Solomon   Correcting our corrections

Francesco Marconi   The year of iterative journalism

Efrat Nechushtai   Journalism wants to be your friend, not your teacher

Dan Shanoff   Bet on sports gambling

Celeste LeCompte   Local news needs local conversation to survive

Winny de Jong   Data journalism goes undercover

Mariana Moura Santos   From pageviews to impact

Elisabeth Goodridge   Yes, they signed up — but our job’s not over

Michael Rain   The year of the culturally relevant curator

Jack Riley   Facebook refugees, from ad revenue to news habits

Talia Stroud   Engaging people across lines of difference

Seth C. Lewis   The gap between journalism and research is too wide

Candis Callison   Learn from Indigenous journalists on covering climate change

Mario García   The rise of content “pilots”

Rubina Madan Fillion   Fighting the reality of deepfakes

Renan Borelli   Developing loyalty means developing your talent

Cindy Royal   For journalism curriculum to change, its faculty needs disruption

Alexandra Borchardt   Newsrooms need to build trust with their journalists, not just the audience

Kelsey Proud   Journalism becomes the escape

Michael Grant   More newsrooms experiment their way to success

Sarah Marshall   A return to destination journalism

Justin Kosslyn   Text hits a tipping point

Tushar Banerjee   Interactive ads will be the new face of display advertising

Matt Waite   “I went to Node.js because I wished to live deliberately”

Ariel Zirulnick   Participation gets professional

Whitney Phillips   Our information systems aren’t broken — they’re working as intended

Craig Newmark   The end of “loudspeakers for liars”

Greg Emerson   Power to the user

Jennifer Dargan   You don’t build diversity through one-off training sessions

John Garrett   You can’t raise prices forever

Tim Carmody   Unlocking the commons

Stephanie Edgerly   It’s time to understand the un-audience

Kjerstin Thorson   Time to get mad about information inequality (again)

Bill Grueskin   Toward a symphony model for local news

Cristi Hegranes   A year to invest in the security of local journalists

Hearken   Pivot to people

Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau   A more sincere definition of “community”

Linda Solomon Wood   The year of the climate reporter

Elva Ramirez   News — but make it cinematic

Rebecca Lee Sanchez   We are all actors in the running rampant of political theater

Jonathan Gill   Publishers build a common tech platform together

Eric Nuzum   The year of the DIY podcast network

Cory Bergman   Journalism as a technology service

Taylor Lorenz   Personal branding is more powerful than ever

Andrew Donohue   Voting rights becomes the new climate change

Johannes Klingebiel   We all grow hooves

Hossein Derakhshan   The news is dying, but journalism will not — and should not

Masuma Ahuja   Make foreign coverage less foreign

Julia Rubin   Meeting people where they are

Mandy Jenkins   Fight the urge to run away from social media

Charo Henríquez   Pivot to journalism

Almar Latour   Reported facts, weaponized in service of action

Gideon Lichfield   Goodbye attention economy, we’ll miss you

Robert Hernandez   Racists and sexists get replaced

Rodney Gibbs   A bright — and young — year for audio

Becca Aaronson   From bridge roles to product thinkers

Jeremy Gilbert   AI finally becomes helpful

Meredith Artley   Huge demand for…anything but politics

Steve Henn   Smart speakers get smarter

Kristen Muller   Local news fails — in a good way

Jim Friedlich   Meet Citizen Kane 2.0

Kevin Douglas Grant   A year to embrace journalism as public service

Angilee Shah   The year news orgs say “yes” to real leaders

Kyra Darnton   A shift to depth in video

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   The most beautiful sentence in 2019 is “No.”

Emma Carew Grovum   The year of the loyal reader

Geetika Rudra   The year of actionable (local) journalism

Jonathan Stray   More algorithmic accountability reporting, and a lot of it will be meh

Heba Aly   The rise of international nonprofit news

An Xiao Mina   The death of consensus, not the death of truth

Annie Rudd   A more intimate aesthetic of politics — on Insta

Mandy Velez   Putting the social back in social media

Elizabeth Jensen   Going where the Acela can’t take you

Heather Chaplin   Agree we’re partisan — for the democratic system

Manoush Zomorodi   Tech will do for information overload what it did for mindfulness

Libby Bawcombe   Haikus of the news

Tshepo Tshabalala   Ahead of African elections, unlock partnerships with fact-checkers

Robin Kwong   Tech shouldn’t be the only field pollinating “news nerds”

Carl Bialik   Fatigued news consumers will pay more for less news

Joel Konopo   Influencers become the new liberated power in Africa

Jesse Brown   Canada’s subsidy for news backfires

P. Kim Bui   The misfits become the bosses

Jesse Holcomb   We’ll get better at making the case for local journalism

Ruth Palmer and Benjamin Toff   From news fatigue to news avoidance

Sarah Stonbely   Mapping the local news ecosystem — with scale but detail

Jean Friedman Rudovsky   Cross-newsroom collaborations strengthen communities

Rachel Davis Mersey   Local news goes minimalist

Logan Molyneux   Seeing social media for what it is

Carolina Guerrero   Spanish-language audio blows up

Adam Thomas   In Europe, foundations invest in news

Umbreen Bhatti   The story doesn’t end for the people we quote

Adam B. Ellick   Video forensic reporting goes mainstream — and local

Lauren Katz   Community becomes a core newsroom value

Darryl Holliday   Let’s talk about power (yours)

Steve Myers   From trying to cover it all to covering what matters

Marie Shanahan   Newsrooms take the comments sections back from platforms

Raney Aronson-Rath   We learn “digital” doesn’t have to mean “short”

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   Podcasting battles East Coast bias

Ben Werdmuller   The platform tide is turning

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Readers are only getting started

Pablo Boczkowski   Reimagining the media for post-institutional times

Angèle Christin   Algorithms and the reflexive turn

Jonas Kaiser   Catching up with “Neuland”

Gabriel Snyder   Journalism doesn’t fit well in a funnel

Soo Oh   Just showing our work isn’t enough

Rishad Patel   A design system for responsible publishing

Andrea Faye Hart   Doing less harm, not just more good

Claire Wardle   Forget deepfakes: Misinformation is showing up in our most personal online spaces

Andrew Ramsammy   The great re-pivot to audio

Nico Gendron   Reaching Generation Z beyond the coasts

Amy King   We should listen to the kids (especially on Instagram)

Nathalie Malinarich   Video — yes, video

Millie Tran   There is no magic — you’ve got this

Brian Moritz   The subscription-pocalypse is about to hit

Ståle Grut   A new dawn for 3D tech in journalism

Matt Skibinski   Quality and reliability are the new currencies for publishers

Mike Rispoli and Craig Aaron   Government funds local news — and that’s a good thing

LaToya Drake   Listen up: New stories, new storytellers

Peter Cunliffe-Jones   The focus of misinformation debates shifts south

Cherian George   Fake news wins in Asia

Elite Truong   What do we owe the next generation?

Pia Frey   You can’t solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis

Zuzanna Ziomecka   News leadership gets an overdue upgrade

Nikki Usher   Three ways national media will further undermine trust

Shalabh Upadhyay   A culture clash on India’s growing Internet

Axie Navas   The traffic hunt, CMS battle, and magazine identity crises loom

Colleen Shalby   Representation becomes more than a talking point

Errin Haines Whack   Say it with me: Racism

Alexandra Svokos   Good luck convincing us millennials to pay

Dheerja Kaur   A focus on problems, not platforms

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   A long, slow slog, with no one coming to the rescue

Nisha Chittal   The homepage makes a comeback

Borja Bergareche Sainz de los Terreros   Entering a more balanced era

Tamar Charney   Seriously: What do you do for people?

Rachel Glickhouse   Newsrooms will prioritize audience needs

Victor Pickard   We will finally confront systemic market failure

Alyssa Zeisler   We expand what (and how and who) we serve

Sue Robinson   Reporters go on the offensive

Sue Cross   Return of the water cooler

Dave Burdick   Seeing our blind spots

Moreno Cruz Osório   Damaged credibility and a new threat in Brazil

Stefanie Murray   Local news wakes up and starts collaborating

Elizabeth Dunbar   Local reporters reflect on what’s not important

Kainaz Amaria   We consider who’s behind the camera

Don Day   Timewalls and other reader revenue experiments

Jenée Desmond-Harris   It finally sinks in that some people aren’t white

M. Scott Havens   Time to swing for the fences

Joanne McNeil   Building a digital hospice

Kawandeep Virdee   Media wants to take care of you

A.J. Bauer   The coming splintering of conservative media

John Biewen   Podcasts keep getting better

Mike Isaac   The old exit doors for digital media companies are closing

Frank Mungeam   Tonight at 11: News, sports, and climate change

Laura E. Davis   More access, but not that kind

Jared Newman   AI-generated fakes launch a software arms race

Sarah Alvarez   Simplify and redistribute

Joshua Darr   The nationalization of political news will accelerate

Matt Karolian   Publishers come to terms with being Facebook’s enablers

Rebecca Searles   From silos to Swiss Army knife teams

Simon Galperin   After capitalism’s fire, journalism’s secondary succession

Alberto Cairo   A year of uncertainty and confidence

Seema Yasmin   We will create our own spaces

Chase Davis   We can acknowledge what we don’t know

Frank Chimero   Leave the phone at home and put news on your wrist

John Saroff   The pivot to reader revenue’s unintended consequences

Shannon McGregor   More bogus embedded tweets in our stories

Rick Berke   The year of loyalty

Julie Posetti   The year of the fight back

Reyhan Harmanci   Selling more stories to Hollywood

james Wahutu   Think 2018 was bad? Wait until you see 2019

Amy Schmitz Weiss   Local news isn’t where you thought it was

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting is media’s slow food movement

Monique Judge   Committing to the truth, calling out lies

Knight Foundation   A year of local collaboration

Cătălina Albeanu   Being responsible for what we don’t know

Zainab Khan   Publishers whose products can stand up to social media giants will win

Peter Bale   Venture capital runs out of patience

Callie Schweitzer   The rise of the conveners

Mat Yurow   Content competition from the tech companies

Nicholas Jackson   More transparency around newsroom decisions

Adam Smith   Platforms will have to help rebuild trust in news

Matthew Pressman   The battle over objectivity intensifies

Tyler Fisher   This is journalism’s do-or-die moment

Patrick Butler   Measuring impact will increase audience trust

Francesco Zaffarano   Towards a rethinking of journalism on social media

Jeff Chin   We detox from Chartbeat

Joe Amditis   Give the audience a seat at the table

Ben Smith   The pendulum starts to swing back

Christa Scharfenberg and Vickie Baranetsky   The year of the lawsuit

Ole Reißmann   The rise of vertical storytelling