The year we stop taking sides

“Like many concepts that have outlived their usefulness, the wall between business and news was taken to absurd limits, creating a culture of divisiveness that lingers on today.”

This is more of a plea than a prediction.

tim-griggsAt one point in my career, as I laid off another round of journalists as the editor of a regional newspaper in North Carolina, I had an epiphany. I had to help, or at least try my damnedest, to keep journalism alive rather than being a journalist myself. So I made the seemingly too-rare leap to the “business side.”

Flash forward a few years, when a senior colleague — who I otherwise admire greatly — told me the most important thing an editor can do is “keep the lawnmower out of the rose bushes” — a reference to fending off the evil “business side” from doing god-knows-what damage to the newsroom.

Ugh.

In 2017, I hope our industry — or at least more of it — kills the damning cultural vestige of church vs. state. Let’s start by abandoning references to “sides.”

Like many concepts that have outlived their usefulness, the wall between business and news — intended to keep advertisers’ interests from influencing news coverage decisions — was taken to absurd limits, creating a culture of divisiveness that lingers on today. And the division of labor between the two, while efficient in the monopolistic era of print, now incapacitates many news organizations that are trying to figure out how to handle necessarily blurry roles. Where should audience growth responsibility live — with the newsroom or the business? What about product? Technology? Analytics? Testing? Design? User experience?

This isn’t about org charts and reporting lines. And it’s not, for the love of god, about merging the editor and publisher jobs to cut costs. The “side” thing is much more real and tangible and destructive. It’s about how we behave, how we work together, how we tackle shared problems. It’s about how we see journalism as a greater good and, yes, how we do everything we can — appropriately, responsibly — to make money. It’s about teamwork. The term “sides,” on the other hand, implies opposition, like armies or tennis players.

When folks with P&L responsibility — publishers, GMs, marketers, sales reps, finance leaders — refuse to work collaboratively with their newsroom colleagues, we lose. When journalists refuse to understand the basic economics of the business — or play an active role in contributing to those economics — we lose.

Some startups of late aim to be built differently. And some initiatives at “legacy” news organizations preach this, too.

So, that’s my plea for 2017: Let’s lose the ego and the control and the “that’s-not-my-job” mentality. Let’s burn down the artificial divide between people who make money and people who spend it. Let’s be one, united in our pursuit of important, community- or world-changing journalism and smart, effective business practices to support it.

But I’ll settle for a baby step: No more “sides.”

Tim Griggs is an independent media consultant and advisor and former publisher of The Texas Tribune.

Erin Millar   The bottom falls out of Canadian media

Errin Haines   Chaos or community?

Sarah Marshall   Focusing on the why of the click

Vivian Schiller   Tested like never before

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   News after advertising may look like news before advertising

Andy Rossback   The year of the user

Claire Wardle   Verification takes center stage

Mike Ragsdale   A smarter information diet

Sarah Wolozin   Virtual reality on the open web

Rubina Madan Fillion   Snapchat grows up

Andrea Silenzi   Podcasts dive into breaking news analysis

Priya Ganapati   Mobile websites are ready for reinvention

Jon Slade   Trusted news, at a premium

Libby Bawcombe   Kids board the podcast train

Francesco Marconi   The year of augmented writing

Rebekah Monson   Journalism is community-as-a-service

Ståle Grut   The battle for high-quality VR

Andrew Losowsky   Building our own communities

Asma Khalid   The year of the newsy podcast

Alexis Lloyd   Public trust for private realities

Jonathan Stray   A boom in responsible conservative media

Sam Ford   The year we talk about our awful metrics

Corey Ford   The year of the rebelpreneur

Mario García   Virtual reality on mobile leaps forward

Keren Goldshlager   Defining a focus, and then saying no

Mary Walter-Brown   Getting comfortable asking for money

Maria Bustillos   “It’s true — I saw it on Facebook”

Bill Keller   A healthy skepticism about data

Carla Zanoni   Prioritizing emotional health

Doris Truong   Connecting with diverse perspectives

Hillary Frey   Forests need to burn to regrow

Gabriel Snyder   The aberration of 20th-century journalism

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting stratifies into hard layers

Rachel Sklar   Women are going to get loud

Lam Thuy Vo   The primary source in the age of mechanical multiplication

Michael Oreskes   Reversing the erosion of democracy

Pablo Boczkowski   Fake news and the future of journalism

Robert Hernandez   History will exclude you, again

Ken Schwencke   Disaggregation and collection

Bill Adair   The year of the fact-checking bot

Umbreen Bhatti   A sense of journalists’ humanity

Anita Zielina   The sales funnel reaches (and changes) the newsroom

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Earn trust by working for (and with) readers

Sue Schardt   Objectivity, fairness, balance, and love

Carrie Brown-Smith   We won’t do enough

Julia Beizer   Building a coherent core identity

Caitlin Thompson   High touch, high value

Sydette Harry   Facing journalism’s history

Samantha Barry   Messaging apps go mainstream

David Chavern   Fake news gets solved

Guy Raz   Inspiration and hope will matter more than ever

Cory Haik   Navigating power in Trump’s America

An Xiao Mina   2017 is for the attention innovators

Sara M. Watson   There is no neutral interface

Mathew Ingram   The Faustian Facebook dance continues

Matt Karolian   AI improves publishing

Tim Herrera   The safe space of service journalism

Jeremy Barr   A terrible year for Tiers B through D

Richard J. Tofel   The country doesn’t trust us — but they do believe us

Jonathan Hunt   Measurement companies get with the times

Matt Waite   The people running the media are the problem

P. Kim Bui   The year journalism teaches again

Juliette De Maeyer and Dominique Trudel   A rebirth of populist journalism

Andrew Ramsammy   Rise of the rebel journalist

Felix Salmon   Headlines matter

Michael Kuntz   Trust is the new click

Nicholas Quah   Podcasting’s coming class war

Peter Sterne   A dangerous anti-press mix

Mira Lowe   News literacy, bias, and “Hamilton”

Liz McMillen   The year of deep insights

Aja Bogdanoff   Comments start pulling their weight

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Truthiness in private spaces

Amy Webb   Journalism as a service

Trushar Barot   API or die

Juan Luis Sánchez   Your predictions are our present

Moreno Cruz Osório   The year of transparency in Brazilian journalism

Renée Kaplan   Pure reach has reached its limit

Mandy Velez   The audience is the source and the story

Tracie Powell   Building reader relationships

Reyhan Harmanci   Bear witness — but then what?

Taylor Lorenz   “Selfie journalism” becomes a thing

S.P. Sullivan   Baking transparency into our routines

Tanya Cordrey   The resurgence of reach

Joanne Lipman   The year of the drone, really

Tim Griggs   The year we stop taking sides

Jim Friedlich   A banner year for venture philanthropy

Kathleen Kingsbury   Print as a premium offering

Elizabeth Jensen   Trust depends on the details

M. Scott Havens   Quality advertising to pair with quality content

Ray Soto   VR moves from experiments to immersion

David Weigel   A test for online speech

Scott Dodd   Nonprofits team up for impact

Millie Tran   International expansion without colonial overtones

Dannagal G. Young   The return of the gatekeepers

Javaun Moradi   What can we own?

Helen Havlak   Chasing mobile search results

Cindy Royal   Preparing the digital educator-scholar hybrid

Andrew Haeg   The year of listening

Geetika Rudra   Journalism is community

Liz Danzico   The triumph of the small

Rachel Schallom   Stop flying over the flyover states

Adam Thomas   The coming collaboration across Europe

Erin Pettigrew   A year of reflection in tech

Ariane Bernard   Better data about your users

Tressie McMillan Cottom   A path through the media’s coming legitimacy crisis

Alberto Cairo   Communicating uncertainty to our readers

Ryan McCarthy   Platforms grow up or grow more toxic

Amie Ferris-Rotman   Вслед за Россией

Ole Reißmann   Un-faking the news

Margarita Noriega   From pinning tweets to tweeting pins

Dan Gillmor   Fix the demand side of news too

Laura Walker   Authentic voices, not fake news

Zizi Papacharissi   Distracted journalism looks in the mirror

Lee Glendinning   A call for great editing

Emi Kolawole   From empathy to community

Amy O'Leary   Not just covering communities, reaching them

Swati Sharma   Failing diversity is failing journalism

Nushin Rashidian   A rise in high-price, high-value subscriptions

Laura E. Davis   Show your work

Burt Herman   Local news gets interesting

Melody Kramer   Radically rethinking design

Christopher Meighan   Unlocking a deeper mobile experience

Emily Goligoski   Incorporating audience feedback at scale

Megan H. Chan   Cultural reporting goes mainstream

David Skok   What lies beyond paywalls

Olivia Ma   The year collaboration beats competition

Mary Meehan   Feeling blue in a red state

Annemarie Dooling   UGC as a path out of the bubble

Steve Henn   The next revolution is voice

Ashley C. Woods   Local journalism will fight a new fight

Almar Latour   Thanks, #fakenews

Mark Armstrong   Time to pay up

Nathalie Malinarich   Making it easy

Dhiya Kuriakose   The year of digital detoxing

Dan Colarusso   Let’s make live video we can love

Kawandeep Virdee   Moving deeper than the machine of clicks

Alice Antheaume   A new test for French media

Katie Zhu   The year of minority media

Molly de Aguiar   Philanthropists galvanize around news

Coleen O'Lear   Back to basics