2
0
1
9

The rise of tribal journalism

“In many parts of the world, tribal journalism compensates for a seeming fragmentation of society by nurturing a sense of belonging and exercising tribal solidarity.”

Amidst a multifaceted transformation of the news media industry, 2019 is going to see more of what I would like to call, in the absence of a better term, tribal journalism.

For a long time, we journalism researchers and educators have taught a kind of journalism that is intellectually sober and relentlessly beneficial to society. In professional and public normative discourse, news-making used to be the business of objective, neutral, and detached reporting. Other forms of journalism have always existed, of course, many of which could be subsumed under the label of tribal journalism. Tribal journalism addresses its audiences less as members of a larger, however loosely defined “public” than as members of a group with specific, collectively shared practices, values, identities, and experiences — that is, as members of a tribe.

To be clear, I am not talking about the native press, nor about news produced for people in tribal areas. I am not using the notion of “tribe” in the classic anthropological sense. Rather, I apply the concept of tribe in a similar way it is used in the literature on digital tribes, where, as a metaphor, it refers to groups and communities with shared interests.

French sociologist Michel Maffesoli, in his 1996 book on The Time of the Tribes, has argued that increased individualization and eroding networks of solidarity have led to the formation of new tribes. He describes these new tribes as “communities of ideas” characterized by elective sociality, fluidity, occasional gatherings, and dispersal. They may condense around a set of practices (e.g., related to consumption, brands, and leisure activities), values (e.g., connected to political ideologies and religions), identities (e.g., along national or ethnic boundaries), or experiences (e.g., of discrimination, marginalization, and disenfranchisement).

It is remarkable that Maffesoli developed his ideas long before social media changed the world. Journalism has already adapted to this new mediascape through increased prominence of tribal journalism, and it will continue to do so in the years to come. Tribal journalism is not aspiring to the now seemingly old-fashioned norms of objectivity, neutrality, and detachment. It is deliberately subjective, partisan, assertive, and socially committed. It caters to the expectations and preconceptions of the tribe it is serving.

Early tribal journalism was a niche market. Its forms addressed very specific subgroups of the audience based on lifestyle habits, such as communities of golfers or Star Trek fans. In recent years, tribal journalism successfully took root in political journalism once partisan news turned out to be a highly profitable business. Ongoing processes of increased social fragmentation and polarization have finally propelled tribal journalism even further into the professional mainstream.

And it is thriving. In many parts of the world, tribal journalism compensates for a seeming fragmentation of society by nurturing a sense of belonging and exercising tribal solidarity. It rhetorically reduces an over-complex world to a totalitarian reality consisting of simple and formulaic truths.

In 2019, audiences will be exposed to a greater quantity and variety of tribal journalism than ever before. Democracy will experience another difficult year.

Thomas Hanitzsch is a journalism and media researcher at the Ludwig-Maximilian-University of Munich.

Logan Molyneux   Seeing social media for what it is

Don Day   Timewalls and other reader revenue experiments

Meredith Artley   Huge demand for…anything but politics

Robert Hernandez   Racists and sexists get replaced

Cherian George   Fake news wins in Asia

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Readers are only getting started

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

Cătălina Albeanu   Being responsible for what we don’t know

Sarah Marshall   A return to destination journalism

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

Monique Judge   Committing to the truth, calling out lies

Gideon Lichfield   Goodbye attention economy, we’ll miss you

Dave Burdick   Seeing our blind spots

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

Shalabh Upadhyay   A culture clash on India’s growing Internet

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

Seema Yasmin   We will create our own spaces

Mario García   The rise of content “pilots”

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

John Saroff   The pivot to reader revenue’s unintended consequences

Bill Adair   Another year fighting Trump’s falsehoods

Dan Shanoff   Bet on sports gambling

Peter Bale   Venture capital runs out of patience

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

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

Eric Ulken   The year you actually start to like your CMS

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

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

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

Pablo Boczkowski   Reimagining the media for post-institutional times

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

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

Adam Thomas   In Europe, foundations invest in news

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   Podcasting battles East Coast bias

Winny de Jong   Data journalism goes undercover

Joe Amditis   Give the audience a seat at the table

Nisha Chittal   The homepage makes a comeback

Ernie Smith   The year we step back from the platform

Joshua Darr   The nationalization of political news will accelerate

Kevin Douglas Grant   A year to embrace journalism as public service

Sue Cross   Return of the water cooler

Ruth Palmer and Benjamin Toff   From news fatigue to news avoidance

M. Scott Havens   Time to swing for the fences

Kawandeep Virdee   Media wants to take care of you

Jesse Brown   Canada’s subsidy for news backfires

Shannon McGregor   More bogus embedded tweets in our stories

Rachel Glickhouse   Newsrooms will prioritize audience needs

Alberto Cairo   A year of uncertainty and confidence

Elva Ramirez   News — but make it cinematic

Andrew Donohue   Voting rights becomes the new climate change

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

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

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

Carl Bialik   Fatigued news consumers will pay more for less news

Reyhan Harmanci   Selling more stories to Hollywood

Elizabeth Dunbar   Local reporters reflect on what’s not important

Dheerja Kaur   A focus on problems, not platforms

Celeste LeCompte   Local news needs local conversation to survive

Libby Bawcombe   Haikus of the news

Mandy Jenkins   Fight the urge to run away from social media

Jim Friedlich   Meet Citizen Kane 2.0

Joel Konopo   Influencers become the new liberated power in Africa

Jonathan Gill   Publishers build a common tech platform together

Andrew Ramsammy   The great re-pivot to audio

Annie Rudd   A more intimate aesthetic of politics — on Insta

Sarah Alvarez   Simplify and redistribute

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

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

Laura E. Davis   More access, but not that kind

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

Mike Caulfield   Ditch the media literacy cynicism and get to work

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

Kate Myers   Journalism continues to be bad for democracy

Talia Stroud   Engaging people across lines of difference

Francesco Marconi   The year of iterative journalism

Jeremy Gilbert   AI finally becomes helpful

Carolina Guerrero   Spanish-language audio blows up

Johannes Klingebiel   We all grow hooves

Christa Scharfenberg and Vickie Baranetsky   The year of the lawsuit

Mandy Velez   Putting the social back in social media

Mariana Moura Santos   From pageviews to impact

Victor Pickard   We will finally confront systemic market failure

Bill Grueskin   Toward a symphony model for local news

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

Kainaz Amaria   We consider who’s behind the camera

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

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

Jared Newman   AI-generated fakes launch a software arms race

Rubina Madan Fillion   Fighting the reality of deepfakes

Heba Aly   The rise of international nonprofit news

Tim Carmody   Unlocking the commons

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

Renée Kaplan   Our future could lie within our own organizations

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

Ben Smith   The pendulum starts to swing back

Tamar Charney   Seriously: What do you do for people?

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

Kyra Darnton   A shift to depth in video

LaToya Drake   Listen up: New stories, new storytellers

Alexis Lloyd & Matt Boggie   The year product leads media

Nicholas Jackson   More transparency around newsroom decisions

Nico Gendron   Reaching Generation Z beyond the coasts

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

Adam Smith   Platforms will have to help rebuild trust in news

Linda Solomon Wood   The year of the climate reporter

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

Soo Oh   Just showing our work isn’t enough

Jack Riley   Facebook refugees, from ad revenue to news habits

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

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

Julie Posetti   The year of the fight back

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

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

Errin Haines Whack   Say it with me: Racism

P. Kim Bui   The misfits become the bosses

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

John Biewen   Podcasts keep getting better

Elite Truong   What do we owe the next generation?

Moreno Cruz Osório   Damaged credibility and a new threat in Brazil

Jean Friedman Rudovsky   Cross-newsroom collaborations strengthen communities

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

Brian Moritz   The subscription-pocalypse is about to hit

Ole Reißmann   The rise of vertical storytelling

Rick Berke   The year of loyalty

Peter Cunliffe-Jones   The focus of misinformation debates shifts south

Patrick Butler   Measuring impact will increase audience trust

Josh Schwartz   A pullback from platforms and a focus on product

Colleen Shalby   Representation becomes more than a talking point

Becca Aaronson   From bridge roles to product thinkers

Sue Robinson   Reporters go on the offensive

Hearken   Pivot to people

Borja Bergareche Sainz de los Terreros   Entering a more balanced era

Michael Grant   More newsrooms experiment their way to success

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

Darryl Holliday   Let’s talk about power (yours)

Almar Latour   Reported facts, weaponized in service of action

Eric Nuzum   The year of the DIY podcast network

Heather Bryant   We are responsible for how we use our power

Rishad Patel   A design system for responsible publishing

Masuma Ahuja   Make foreign coverage less foreign

Renan Borelli   Developing loyalty means developing your talent

Gabriel Snyder   Journalism doesn’t fit well in a funnel

Matt Skibinski   Quality and reliability are the new currencies for publishers

Mat Yurow   Content competition from the tech companies

Greg Emerson   Power to the user

Kelsey Proud   Journalism becomes the escape

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

Rebecca Searles   From silos to Swiss Army knife teams

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

Nathalie Malinarich   Video — yes, video

Simon Rogers   Data journalism becomes a global field

Marie Shanahan   Newsrooms take the comments sections back from platforms

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

Julia Rubin   Meeting people where they are

Jonas Kaiser   Catching up with “Neuland”

John Garrett   You can’t raise prices forever

Zizi Papacharissi   Old interface, say hello to the new interface

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

Matthew Pressman   The battle over objectivity intensifies

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

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

Joanne McNeil   Building a digital hospice

Geetika Rudra   The year of actionable (local) journalism

Michael Rain   The year of the culturally relevant curator

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

Steve Grove   A reckoning for tech’s work with news

Steve Henn   Smart speakers get smarter

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

Jeff Chin   We detox from Chartbeat

Taylor Lorenz   Personal branding is more powerful than ever

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

Knight Foundation   A year of local collaboration

Candis Callison   Learn from Indigenous journalists on covering climate change

Charo Henríquez   Pivot to journalism

Justin Kosslyn   Text hits a tipping point

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

Stefanie Murray   Local news wakes up and starts collaborating

Angèle Christin   Algorithms and the reflexive turn

Kristen Muller   Local news fails — in a good way

Alexandra Svokos   Good luck convincing us millennials to pay

Salem Solomon   Correcting our corrections

Zuzanna Ziomecka   News leadership gets an overdue upgrade

Ben Werdmuller   The platform tide is turning

Lauren Katz   Community becomes a core newsroom value

Francesco Zaffarano   Towards a rethinking of journalism on social media

Ariel Zirulnick   Participation gets professional

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

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

Rodney Gibbs   A bright — and young — year for audio

Thomas Hanitzsch   The rise of tribal journalism

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

A.J. Bauer   The coming splintering of conservative media

Craig Newmark   The end of “loudspeakers for liars”

Emma Carew Grovum   The year of the loyal reader

Rachel Davis Mersey   Local news goes minimalist

Callie Schweitzer   The rise of the conveners

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

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting is media’s slow food movement

Elizabeth Jensen   Going where the Acela can’t take you

Andrea Faye Hart   Doing less harm, not just more good

Cory Bergman   Journalism as a technology service

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

Nikki Usher   Three ways national media will further undermine trust

Chase Davis   We can acknowledge what we don’t know

Ståle Grut   A new dawn for 3D tech in journalism