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A year to embrace journalism as public service

“In 2019 we will continue to bring together newsrooms, facilitators, and funders to forge a framework for revitalizing local news with public service at the center.”

Local news organizations are so deeply intertwined with the well-being of their communities that we often don’t know how essential they are until they’re gone.

Recent research indicates that as newsrooms close and news deserts expand, civic engagement plummets, communities become more polarized for want of shared information, elected officials serve their constituents less faithfully and pollution levels rise in the absence of watchdog reporting to keep dirty factories in check.

The function that local newsrooms provide is in itself an essential public service, the information they offer so vital to the health of communities and our democracy. We cannot afford to wait until more news organizations close to prioritize that fact, but the good news is that a shift has already begun.

In 2019 we will continue to bring together newsrooms, facilitators and funders to forge a framework for revitalizing local news with public service at the center, in which news organizations are more attuned to what their communities need and more adept at providing it.

Examples of promising efforts to identify local information needs and serve them include: Outlier Media filling information gaps via SMS in Detroit; City Bureau training community members to document public meetings in Chicago and Detroit; Lenfest Local Lab building news products for the community in Philadelphia; Community Information Cooperative helping to nurture information districts across the country, starting in New Jersey; Listening Post Collective and Hearken working with local newsrooms to bring the public into the editorial process; and Your Voice Ohio convening community members and journalists around pressing issues.

New and emerging funding models can help support journalism as service, ranging from the American Journalism Project to Civil to ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network to Berkeleyside’s pioneering direct public offering to our own work at Report for America, which uses a salary sharing model to create more local reporting positions to dig into undercovered issues and better serve marginalized communities.

These approaches share a commitment to quality journalism rather than clickbait, bringing philanthropic and public support behind the idea, as AJP states in its mission, that “access to civic information is a public service in and of itself.”

Will Wright, a Report for America corps member at the Lexington Herald-Leader, helped draw statewide and national attention to a water crisis in Eastern Kentucky that compelled Gov. Matt Bevin to commit nearly $5 million to help fix infrastructure problems there.

“I’ve always believed that journalism is a public service,” said Wright, who hails from Western Pennsylvania and went to college at University of Kentucky. “Reporting on local and state government, writing features about everyday people doing great things, and keeping a watchful eye over powerful industries all help our world move forward.”

That kind of work can only happen when news organizations take the time to listen to what people in communities want and need, and to build the trust required for the relationship to be two-way rather than extractive.

Manny Ramos, a corps member at the Chicago Sun-Times and native of Chicago’s West Side, put it best.

“The community doesn’t owe us anything,” Ramos said. “It’s about us going in there and attempting to develop that trust.”

Kevin Douglas Grant is the co-founder and executive editor of The GroundTruth Project and vice president of Report for America.

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

Craig Newmark   The end of “loudspeakers for liars”

M. Scott Havens   Time to swing for the fences

Steve Grove   A reckoning for tech’s work with news

Nisha Chittal   The homepage makes a comeback

Jack Riley   Facebook refugees, from ad revenue to news habits

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

Kyra Darnton   A shift to depth in video

Peter Cunliffe-Jones   The focus of misinformation debates shifts south

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

Mario García   The rise of content “pilots”

Reyhan Harmanci   Selling more stories to Hollywood

Carolina Guerrero   Spanish-language audio blows up

Matt Skibinski   Quality and reliability are the new currencies for publishers

Tamar Charney   Seriously: What do you do for people?

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

Talia Stroud   Engaging people across lines of difference

Sarah Alvarez   Simplify and redistribute

Alexis Lloyd & Matt Boggie   The year product leads media

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

Geetika Rudra   The year of actionable (local) journalism

Mariana Moura Santos   From pageviews to impact

Angèle Christin   Algorithms and the reflexive turn

A.J. Bauer   The coming splintering of conservative media

John Garrett   You can’t raise prices forever

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Readers are only getting started

Ariel Zirulnick   Participation gets professional

Bill Grueskin   Toward a symphony model for local news

Hearken   Pivot to people

Kate Myers   Journalism continues to be bad for democracy

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

Stefanie Murray   Local news wakes up and starts collaborating

Carl Bialik   Fatigued news consumers will pay more for less news

Joshua Darr   The nationalization of political news will accelerate

Mat Yurow   Content competition from the tech companies

Andrew Donohue   Voting rights becomes the new climate change

Matthew Pressman   The battle over objectivity intensifies

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

Nico Gendron   Reaching Generation Z beyond the coasts

Errin Haines Whack   Say it with me: Racism

Eric Nuzum   The year of the DIY podcast network

Meredith Artley   Huge demand for…anything but politics

Ernie Smith   The year we step back from the platform

Soo Oh   Just showing our work isn’t enough

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

Jeremy Gilbert   AI finally becomes helpful

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

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

Winny de Jong   Data journalism goes undercover

Ben Smith   The pendulum starts to swing back

Nikki Usher   Three ways national media will further undermine trust

Steve Henn   Smart speakers get smarter

Greg Emerson   Power to the user

Kawandeep Virdee   Media wants to take care of you

Joel Konopo   Influencers become the new liberated power in Africa

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

Shannon McGregor   More bogus embedded tweets in our stories

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

Dheerja Kaur   A focus on problems, not platforms

Annie Rudd   A more intimate aesthetic of politics — on Insta

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

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

Kristen Muller   Local news fails — in a good way

Kainaz Amaria   We consider who’s behind the camera

Christa Scharfenberg and Vickie Baranetsky   The year of the lawsuit

Darryl Holliday   Let’s talk about power (yours)

Peter Bale   Venture capital runs out of patience

Gideon Lichfield   Goodbye attention economy, we’ll miss you

John Saroff   The pivot to reader revenue’s unintended consequences

Jeff Chin   We detox from Chartbeat

Rachel Davis Mersey   Local news goes minimalist

Almar Latour   Reported facts, weaponized in service of action

Knight Foundation   A year of local collaboration

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

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

Renan Borelli   Developing loyalty means developing your talent

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

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

Zuzanna Ziomecka   News leadership gets an overdue upgrade

Kelsey Proud   Journalism becomes the escape

Victor Pickard   We will finally confront systemic market failure

Julia Rubin   Meeting people where they are

Mandy Jenkins   Fight the urge to run away from social media

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

Callie Schweitzer   The rise of the conveners

Bill Adair   Another year fighting Trump’s falsehoods

Logan Molyneux   Seeing social media for what it is

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

Justin Kosslyn   Text hits a tipping point

Shalabh Upadhyay   A culture clash on India’s growing Internet

Ole Reißmann   The rise of vertical storytelling

Thomas Hanitzsch   The rise of tribal journalism

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

Simon Rogers   Data journalism becomes a global field

Julie Posetti   The year of the fight back

Francesco Marconi   The year of iterative journalism

Jonathan Gill   Publishers build a common tech platform together

Colleen Shalby   Representation becomes more than a talking point

Joanne McNeil   Building a digital hospice

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

Ben Werdmuller   The platform tide is turning

Joe Amditis   Give the audience a seat at the table

Jean Friedman Rudovsky   Cross-newsroom collaborations strengthen communities

Francesco Zaffarano   Towards a rethinking of journalism on social media

Nathalie Malinarich   Video — yes, video

Jesse Brown   Canada’s subsidy for news backfires

Lauren Katz   Community becomes a core newsroom value

Seema Yasmin   We will create our own spaces

Alberto Cairo   A year of uncertainty and confidence

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

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

Sarah Marshall   A return to destination journalism

Chase Davis   We can acknowledge what we don’t know

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

Elva Ramirez   News — but make it cinematic

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

Adam Thomas   In Europe, foundations invest in news

Rebecca Searles   From silos to Swiss Army knife teams

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

Cătălina Albeanu   Being responsible for what we don’t know

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

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

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

Emma Carew Grovum   The year of the loyal reader

Elizabeth Dunbar   Local reporters reflect on what’s not important

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting is media’s slow food movement

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

John Biewen   Podcasts keep getting better

Pablo Boczkowski   Reimagining the media for post-institutional times

Charo Henríquez   Pivot to journalism

Tim Carmody   Unlocking the commons

Alexandra Svokos   Good luck convincing us millennials to pay

Marie Shanahan   Newsrooms take the comments sections back from platforms

Dan Shanoff   Bet on sports gambling

Taylor Lorenz   Personal branding is more powerful than ever

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

Josh Schwartz   A pullback from platforms and a focus on product

Elite Truong   What do we owe the next generation?

Elizabeth Jensen   Going where the Acela can’t take you

Salem Solomon   Correcting our corrections

Ståle Grut   A new dawn for 3D tech in journalism

Ruth Palmer and Benjamin Toff   From news fatigue to news avoidance

Celeste LeCompte   Local news needs local conversation to survive

Libby Bawcombe   Haikus of the news

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

Renée Kaplan   Our future could lie within our own organizations

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

Monique Judge   Committing to the truth, calling out lies

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

Laura E. Davis   More access, but not that kind

Zizi Papacharissi   Old interface, say hello to the new interface

Andrew Ramsammy   The great re-pivot to audio

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

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

Rick Berke   The year of loyalty

Don Day   Timewalls and other reader revenue experiments

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

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

LaToya Drake   Listen up: New stories, new storytellers

Candis Callison   Learn from Indigenous journalists on covering climate change

Nicholas Jackson   More transparency around newsroom decisions

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

Robert Hernandez   Racists and sexists get replaced

Borja Bergareche Sainz de los Terreros   Entering a more balanced era

Sue Cross   Return of the water cooler

Jonas Kaiser   Catching up with “Neuland”

Kevin Douglas Grant   A year to embrace journalism as public service

Michael Rain   The year of the culturally relevant curator

Rachel Glickhouse   Newsrooms will prioritize audience needs

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

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

Mandy Velez   Putting the social back in social media

Gabriel Snyder   Journalism doesn’t fit well in a funnel

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

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

Sue Robinson   Reporters go on the offensive

Brian Moritz   The subscription-pocalypse is about to hit

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

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

Jared Newman   AI-generated fakes launch a software arms race

Heba Aly   The rise of international nonprofit news

Masuma Ahuja   Make foreign coverage less foreign

P. Kim Bui   The misfits become the bosses

Becca Aaronson   From bridge roles to product thinkers

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

Patrick Butler   Measuring impact will increase audience trust

Rodney Gibbs   A bright — and young — year for audio

Jim Friedlich   Meet Citizen Kane 2.0

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   Podcasting battles East Coast bias

Rishad Patel   A design system for responsible publishing

Adam Smith   Platforms will have to help rebuild trust in news

Michael Grant   More newsrooms experiment their way to success

Eric Ulken   The year you actually start to like your CMS

Johannes Klingebiel   We all grow hooves

Heather Bryant   We are responsible for how we use our power

Mike Caulfield   Ditch the media literacy cynicism and get to work

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

Cory Bergman   Journalism as a technology service

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

Rubina Madan Fillion   Fighting the reality of deepfakes

Cherian George   Fake news wins in Asia

Linda Solomon Wood   The year of the climate reporter

Moreno Cruz Osório   Damaged credibility and a new threat in Brazil

Dave Burdick   Seeing our blind spots

Andrea Faye Hart   Doing less harm, not just more good