Platforms grow up or grow more toxic

“2017 may be the year Facebook gets permanently branded as part of the problem.”

Journalism as opposition. This sounds like a partisan stance, but it really isn’t. There are a few macro forces pushing journalism into attack mode: President-elect Donald Trump’s frightening stance toward the press; the rise of fake news (read: propaganda); our descent into a “post-truth” fog; lies by public officials; increasingly prominent and frequent acts of hatred; a general glut of things to read and watch. All of these will clarify journalism’s mission next year. Standing up and telling the truth will seem radical and urgent in 2017. The basic spadework of journalism — David Farenthold’s doggedness comes to mind  — will begin to break through the national conversation in a way that hasn’t happened in years.

ryan-mccarthyVisual journalism wins. There’s been a lot of pivoting to video by web media companies, moves that have mostly overestimated readers’ appetite for video (and the ability to make money of it). But there’s more going on here. TV channels are trying to become websites; websites are trying to become like TV channels. On Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter, readers have become to expect a visual layer places on top of stories. Online news is quickly becoming visual, and at Vice News we build that into the core of what we do.

In 2017, the pivot to video so many web publishes have made will begin to shake out. Here’s more wishful thinking: Quality will win, mostly. Traditional media stalwarts like The New York Times and The Washington Post will formalize their commitment to visual journalism. Visual journalism — and eventual integration with TV — will begin to become table stakes for big web media companies.

Platforms grow up — or grow even more toxic. Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit will be forced to finally, begrudgingly accept their influence on society, on political and cultural polarization. Pizzagate won’t be the last time the fetid river of online bullshit spills into the real world. Beyond their increasingly fraught relationship with news, platforms will face a pretty simple calculus: correct for civility or risk losing users en masse (look what happened to Twitter). I’m not predicting that people start abandoning Facebook in 2017, but it’s getting dangerously close to losing its monopoly on our attention. 2017 may be the year Facebook gets permanently branded as part of the problem.

Ryan McCarthy is editor-in-chief of Vice News.

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