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Seriously: What do you do for people?

“We talk constantly about pageviews and engagement rates, circulation stats and Nielsen ratings, subscriptions and donation rates, but all that happens when we successfully offer something to human beings that is of value to them.”

In 2019, we will be asking: “What do we do for people?” And I don’t mean writing some piece-of-corporate-hogwash mission statement full of buzzwords no one understands. I mean we’ll be getting clear about what it is you give your readers, listeners, or viewers. Journalism outlets, journalists, and everyone who works for an organization that does journalism needs to know what they are doing for people.

We talk constantly about pageviews and engagement rates, circulation stats and Nielsen ratings, subscriptions and donation rates, but all that happens when we successfully offer something to human beings that is of value to them. Knowing what we do for people also keeps us clear about why we are doing what we are doing. It helps us know whether we are doing things for the right reasons.

My team uses the NPR One algorithm to personalize and localize podcasts and public radio content on a variety of platforms, from smart speakers to cable boxes. Personalization gets a bad rap for creating filter bubbles, but editorial algorithms can also be used to try to widen people’s horizons, as well by exposing them to other points of view. The team that works on the NPR One systems is very clear that we use the algorithm to get our listeners a blend of localized news and a dose of serendipity that expands their understanding of their community, country, and world.

When I was in charge of content at Michigan Radio, we thought about our role as helping people “understand their state.” It was a literal statement about helping people understand what was happening in the state of Michigan, and a metaphorical statement about helping them understand their personal state as a citizen of the world. We chose what to cover, what to air, and what community conversations to participate in based on whether it would in fact help people understand their state.

Likewise, NPR, PRX, and a number of member stations are working on a project called “Culture of Journalism.” It’s an effort to ensure that everyone in public media is adhering to common ethics and values. But ultimately it’s really about encouraging stations and journalism creators in public media to do things because it helps create trustworthy journalism for our audience, rather than because it feathers our personal or organizational nests.

Our industry faces so many challenges — the political powers that be, financial pressures as our business models evolve, technology shifts, and new competition. In 2019, I’d argue the most powerful tool we have is knowing very clearly what it is we are trying to do for our audience. That way they too will be clear about what they can expect and value from us. Something that becomes even more important as people get their information by asking Alexa, Google, Siri, or Bixby for it.

Tamar Charney is managing editor of NPR One.

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Alexis Lloyd & Matt Boggie   The year product leads media

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Bill Grueskin   Toward a symphony model for local news

Christa Scharfenberg and Vickie Baranetsky   The year of the lawsuit

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Gabriel Snyder   Journalism doesn’t fit well in a funnel

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Salem Solomon   Correcting our corrections

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Winny de Jong   Data journalism goes undercover

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Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Readers are only getting started

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Reyhan Harmanci   Selling more stories to Hollywood

Kate Myers   Journalism continues to be bad for democracy

Michael Grant   More newsrooms experiment their way to success

Pablo Boczkowski   Reimagining the media for post-institutional times

Meredith Artley   Huge demand for…anything but politics

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

Emma Carew Grovum   The year of the loyal reader

Tim Carmody   Unlocking the commons

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

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

Kawandeep Virdee   Media wants to take care of you

Sue Robinson   Reporters go on the offensive

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

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

Carolina Guerrero   Spanish-language audio blows up

Logan Molyneux   Seeing social media for what it is

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

Ole Reißmann   The rise of vertical storytelling

Colleen Shalby   Representation becomes more than a talking point

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

Rishad Patel   A design system for responsible publishing

Jim Friedlich   Meet Citizen Kane 2.0

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

Rachel Davis Mersey   Local news goes minimalist

Callie Schweitzer   The rise of the conveners

Nathalie Malinarich   Video — yes, video

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Ståle Grut   A new dawn for 3D tech in journalism

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

Masuma Ahuja   Make foreign coverage less foreign

Geetika Rudra   The year of actionable (local) journalism

Tamar Charney   Seriously: What do you do for people?

Julie Posetti   The year of the fight back

Jonas Kaiser   Catching up with “Neuland”

Adam Thomas   In Europe, foundations invest in news

Dheerja Kaur   A focus on problems, not platforms

M. Scott Havens   Time to swing for the fences

Adam Smith   Platforms will have to help rebuild trust in news

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Seema Yasmin   We will create our own spaces

Eric Ulken   The year you actually start to like your CMS

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A.J. Bauer   The coming splintering of conservative media

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Andrea Faye Hart   Doing less harm, not just more good

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John Garrett   You can’t raise prices forever

Rick Berke   The year of loyalty

Victor Pickard   We will finally confront systemic market failure

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

Andrew Ramsammy   The great re-pivot to audio

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

Matt Skibinski   Quality and reliability are the new currencies for publishers

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

Becca Aaronson   From bridge roles to product thinkers

Rachel Glickhouse   Newsrooms will prioritize audience needs

John Saroff   The pivot to reader revenue’s unintended consequences

Joshua Darr   The nationalization of political news will accelerate

Stefanie Murray   Local news wakes up and starts collaborating

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

Steve Grove   A reckoning for tech’s work with news

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

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

Josh Schwartz   A pullback from platforms and a focus on product

Alexandra Svokos   Good luck convincing us millennials to pay

Nicholas Jackson   More transparency around newsroom decisions

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   Podcasting battles East Coast bias

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

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Cherian George   Fake news wins in Asia

Francesco Marconi   The year of iterative journalism

Sue Cross   Return of the water cooler

Bill Adair   Another year fighting Trump’s falsehoods

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Mandy Jenkins   Fight the urge to run away from social media

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

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Elizabeth Jensen   Going where the Acela can’t take you

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Justin Kosslyn   Text hits a tipping point

Jonathan Gill   Publishers build a common tech platform together

Mario García   The rise of content “pilots”

Eric Nuzum   The year of the DIY podcast network

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Patrick Butler   Measuring impact will increase audience trust

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

Celeste LeCompte   Local news needs local conversation to survive

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Zizi Papacharissi   Old interface, say hello to the new interface

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

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

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

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

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Craig Newmark   The end of “loudspeakers for liars”

Angèle Christin   Algorithms and the reflexive turn

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Kyra Darnton   A shift to depth in video

John Biewen   Podcasts keep getting better

Andrew Donohue   Voting rights becomes the new climate change

Ruth Palmer and Benjamin Toff   From news fatigue to news avoidance

Ernie Smith   The year we step back from the platform

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

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

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

Ben Smith   The pendulum starts to swing back

Jean Friedman Rudovsky   Cross-newsroom collaborations strengthen communities

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting is media’s slow food movement

Mat Yurow   Content competition from the tech companies