We get serious about algorithms

“More and more, we’re getting comments from NPR One listeners along the lines of ‘I don’t want personalization, I want the news.’ My answer is, that’s exactly what we are using personalization algorithms to do.”

Algorithms will take their place as editorial tools that support the ethics and values of journalism — not just ways of getting people to listen more, read more, and share our stuff more.

Sure it’s easy to give people what they want in the moment and keep them glued to our content. Just like we humans love a big vat of caramelized popcorn, who doesn’t like stories that represent how we “want” to see the world? Ooo, yummy. At least until you feel sick. This last year of fake news and false narratives brought a wave of nausea to the public and to the media about the dark side of the promise of personalization algorithms.

More and more, we’re getting comments from NPR One listeners along the lines of “I don’t want personalization, I want the news.” My answer is, that’s exactly what we are using personalization algorithms to do.

These algorithms are our modern editorial tools. We need them to control the distribution of our stories.

At NPR One, we use them to make sure our listeners are getting the most up-to-date and relevant stories every time they listen. What do you use yours for? As editorial leaders, we should have a hand in deciding how we will use personalization and to what end. This is the year to be clear about what that end is and make sure our audiences know.

We can bring the same editorial integrity and values to this tool as we do any other tool of the journalistic trade. NPR, like The Washington Post and even Snap, have started using algorithms and personalization to make sure people are getting an expansive view. Instead of only giving people more of the things they like, we can use personalization to bring them multiple points of view or even updates and corrections to things they’ve seen or heard. It’s heartening to see more calls for being responsible and transparent about how we use personalization algorithms so that we hang onto the public’s trust in journalism.

These tools are only going to be a larger force in how we deliver our stories, and this is the year where there should be a wider focus on using personalization to inform, educate, and foster common understanding.

Tamar Charney is managing editor of NPR One.

Lam Thuy Vo   Breaking free from the tyranny of the loudest

Hannah Cassius   The year of the echo-chamber escapists

Doris Truong   Computer vision vs. the Internet vigilantes

Ruth Palmer   Risks will grow for news subjects — especially minorities

David Skok   Finding an information-life balance

Dannagal G. Young   Stop covering politics as a game

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Seeking trust in fragmented spaces

Mariana Moura Santos   Think local, act global

Juliette De Maeyer   A responsible press criticism

Jassim Ahmad   Thriving on change

Eric Nuzum   Beyond the narrative arc

Caitria O'Neill   The new court of public opinion

Nushin Rashidian   Publishers seek ad dollar alternatives

Daniel Trielli   The rich get richer, the poor scramble

Lucas Graves   From algorithms to institutions

Vivian Schiller   Pivot to tomorrow

Andrew Haeg   The year journalists become relationship builders

Christopher Meighan   Passive partnership is in the rearview

Monique Judge   Letting black women tell their own stories

John Keefe   Scooped by AI

Mario García   Storytelling finally adapts to mobile

Michael Kuntz   The only pivot that might work

Cindy Royal   Your journalism curriculum is obsolete

Charo Henríquez   Training is an investment, not an expense

Sue Schardt   Jump the niche

Amie Ferris-Rotman   More female reporters abroad (please)

Claire Wardle   Disinformation gets worse

Michelle Ferrier   The year of the great reckoning

Rick Berke   Value is the watchword

Errin Haines   At the ballot, it’s time to count black women

Tamar Charney   We get serious about algorithms

Paul Ford   Go global

Alan Soon   The rise of start of psychographic, micro-targeted media

Pia Frey   Address users as individuals

Lanre Akinola   Making noise is not a strategy

Jamie Mottram   From pageviews to t-shirts

Joyce Barnathan   It will be harder to bury the news

Jared Newman   Venture funding and digital news don’t mix

Andrew Ramsammy   The year ownership mattered

Yvonne Leow   The rise of video messaging

Kawandeep Virdee   Zines had it right all along

Damon Krukowski   Reviving the alt-weekly soul

Marcela Donini and Thiago Herdy   Collaboration is the way forward for Brazilian journalism

Renée Kaplan   The year of quiet adjustments (shhh)

Bill Keller   A growing turn to philanthropy

Almar Latour   Conquering calm

Edward Roussel   Eyes, ears, and brains

Frédéric Filloux   External forces

Sydette Harry   Listen to your corner and watch for the hook

Adam Thomas   Sharing is caring: The year of the mentor

Tanya Cordrey   Finally, the seeds of radical reinvention

Zizi Papacharissi   Women come back

Helen Havlak   Keywords, not publishers, power the world’s biggest feeds

Raney Aronson-Rath   Transparency is the antidote to fake news

Julia Beizer   A longer view on the pivot

Matt Carlson   Attacks on the press will get worse

Manoush Zomorodi   Self-help as a publishing strategy

Sam Ford   The year of investing in processes

Alexios Mantzarlis   Moving fake news research out of the lab

Carlos Martínez de la Serna   The new journalism commons

Marie Gilot   No assholes allowed

Mary Meehan   Real lives are at stake in rural areas

Will Sommer   The year local media gets conservative

Nancy Watzman   Know thy TV

Eric Ulken   The year local publishers get smart(er) about change

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   Women of color will reclaim and monetize our time

Jake Levine   The return to now

Sarah Marshall   Loyalty as the key performance indicator

Jennifer Choi   Standing up for us and for each other

Joanne Lipman   Journalists inventing revenue streams

Jim Brady   With the people, not just of the people

Rodney Benson   Better, less read, and less trusted

Alice Antheaume   Are you fluent in AI?

Feli Sánchez   The year for guerrilla user research

Monika Bauerlein   The firehose of falsehood

Rodney Gibbs   Tech workers turn to journalism

Cristina Wilson   The year of the Instagram Story

Umbreen Bhatti   The trust problem isn’t new

Craig Newmark   Working together toward sustainable solutions

Burt Herman   Things get real

Pablo Boczkowski   The rise of skeptical reading

Elizabeth Jensen   Show your work

Nikki Usher   The year of The Washington Post

Carrie Brown-Smith   Transparency finally takes off

Kyle Ellis   Let’s build our way out of this

P. Kim Bui   The reckoning is only beginning

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   The Snapchat scenario and the risk of more closed platforms

Caitlin Thompson   Podcasting models mature and diversify

Mike Caulfield   Refactoring media literacy for the networked age

Mi-Ai Parrish   Blockchain and trust

Molly de Aguiar   Good journalism won’t be enough

An Xiao Mina   Memes and visuals come to the fore

Julia B. Chan   Looking for loyalty in all the right places

Mary Walter-Brown   Show a little vulnerability

Kim Fox   Audience teams diversify their approach

Matt Thompson   Here come the attention managers

Hossein Derakhshan   Television has won

Mariano Blejman   News games rule

Rachel Davis Mersey   AI, with real smarts

Nathalie Malinarich   Peak push

Tanzina Vega   It’s time for media companies to #PassTheMic

Jennifer Coogan   The future is female

Kelsey Proud   No, no, no

Jarrod Dicker   Honesty in advertising

Dheerja Kaur   Fun with subscription products

Matt Boggie   The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

S. Mitra Kalita   The arc of news and audience

Kristen Muller   The year of the voter

Jessica Parker Gilbert   Design connects storytelling and strategy

Taylor Lorenz   Social and media will split

Pete Brown   Push alerts, personalized

Kathleen McElroy   Building a news video experience native to mobile

Kinsey Wilson   Facebook and Google: Help out or pay up

Ariana Tobin   Too tired to tap

Alfred Hermida   Going beyond mobile-first

Vanessa K. DeLuca   Women’s voices take center stage

Neha Gandhi   Filler killers

Jim Moroney   Newspapers have to be good enough for readers to pay for

Usha Sahay   Wallets get opened

Tracie Powell   The muting of underserved voices

Millie Tran and Stine Bauer Dahlberg   (Hint: It’s about your brand)

Borja Echevarría   TV goes digital, digital goes TV

Dan Shanoff   You down with OTT? (Yeah, DTC)

Jesse Holcomb   Information disorder, coming to a congressional district near you

Corey Johnson   The pro-fact resistance

Miguel Castro   The arrival of the impact producer

Amy Webb   Listen to weak signals

Evie Nagy   Pivot to mobile video frustration

C.W. Anderson   The social media apocalypse

Ray Soto   VR reaches the next level

Emily Goligoski   Looking beyond news for inspiration

Aron Pilhofer   We can’t leave the business to the business side any more

Felix Salmon   Covering bitcoin while owning bitcoin

Rachel Schallom   Better design helps differentiate opinion and news

Mira Lowe   The year of the local watchdog

Nicholas Quah   Stop talking trash about young people

Dan Newman   A return to trust

Andrew Losowsky   The year of resilience

Matt DeRienzo   A recession, then a collapse

Jacqui Cheng   Retailers move into content

Francesco Marconi   The year of machine-to-machine journalism

José Zamora   Revenue-first journalism

Debra Adams Simmons   And a woman shall lead them

Corey Ford   The empire strikes back

Tim Carmody   Watch out for Spotify

Ståle Grut   Reclaiming audience interaction from social networks

Amy King   Let’s amplify visual voice

L. Gordon Crovitz   Serving readers over advertisers

Emma Carew Grovum   Newsroom culture becomes a priority

Mandy Velez   texting is lit rn, fam

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Publishing less to give readers more

Laura E. Davis   Writing answers before you know the question

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   Skepticism and narcissism

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Fortifying social media from automated inauthenticity

Imaeyen Ibanga   Longform video leads the way

Sara M. Watson   Feeds will open up to new user-determined filters

Cory Haik   Suffering from realness, pivoting to impact

Basile Simon   We need better career paths for news nerds

Federica Cherubini   The rise of bridge roles in news organizations

Heather Bryant   Building the ecosystems for collaboration

Rubina Madan Fillion   Unlocking the potential of AI

Alastair Coote   The year of self-improvement

Raju Narisetti   Mirror, mirror on the wall

Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán   The editorial meeting of the future

Richard J. Tofel   The platforms’ power demands more reporters’ attention

Brian Lam   Sketchy ethics around product reviews

Steve Grove   The midterms are an opportunity

Joanne McNeil   Gatekeeping the gatekeepers

Luke O'Neil   The end is already here

Susie Banikarim   R.I.P. Pivot to Video (2017–2017)

Trushar Barot   The Jio-fication of India

Niketa Patel   Live journalism comes of age

Sally Lehrman   Trust comes first

Michelle Garcia   Navigating journalistic transparency

Justin Kosslyn   The year journalists become digital security experts

Sam Sanders   Shine the light on ourselves