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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.

Hearken   Pivot to people

John Garrett   You can’t raise prices forever

A.J. Bauer   The coming splintering of conservative media

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

Chase Davis   We can acknowledge what we don’t know

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

Peter Bale   Venture capital runs out of patience

Thomas Hanitzsch   The rise of tribal journalism

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

Nikki Usher   Three ways national media will further undermine trust

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

Alexis Lloyd & Matt Boggie   The year product leads media

Charo Henríquez   Pivot to journalism

Craig Newmark   The end of “loudspeakers for liars”

Heather Bryant   We are responsible for how we use our power

Elizabeth Jensen   Going where the Acela can’t take you

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

Salem Solomon   Correcting our corrections

Elizabeth Dunbar   Local reporters reflect on what’s not important

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

John Saroff   The pivot to reader revenue’s unintended consequences

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

Jean Friedman Rudovsky   Cross-newsroom collaborations strengthen communities

Linda Solomon Wood   The year of the climate reporter

Shannon McGregor   More bogus embedded tweets in our stories

Christa Scharfenberg and Vickie Baranetsky   The year of the lawsuit

Rodney Gibbs   A bright — and young — year for audio

Rishad Patel   A design system for responsible publishing

Mandy Jenkins   Fight the urge to run away from social media

Rebecca Searles   From silos to Swiss Army knife teams

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

M. Scott Havens   Time to swing for the fences

Julie Posetti   The year of the fight back

Kate Myers   Journalism continues to be bad for democracy

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

Kainaz Amaria   We consider who’s behind the camera

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

Michael Rain   The year of the culturally relevant curator

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

Alexandra Svokos   Good luck convincing us millennials to pay

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

Monique Judge   Committing to the truth, calling out lies

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

Joel Konopo   Influencers become the new liberated power in Africa

Andrew Donohue   Voting rights becomes the new climate change

Simon Rogers   Data journalism becomes a global field

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

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

Bill Adair   Another year fighting Trump’s falsehoods

Nicholas Jackson   More transparency around newsroom decisions

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

John Biewen   Podcasts keep getting better

Knight Foundation   A year of local collaboration

Eric Nuzum   The year of the DIY podcast network

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

Renan Borelli   Developing loyalty means developing your talent

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

Dan Shanoff   Bet on sports gambling

Kelsey Proud   Journalism becomes the escape

Ole Reißmann   The rise of vertical storytelling

Geetika Rudra   The year of actionable (local) journalism

Sue Robinson   Reporters go on the offensive

Zuzanna Ziomecka   News leadership gets an overdue upgrade

Andrea Faye Hart   Doing less harm, not just more good

Jack Riley   Facebook refugees, from ad revenue to news habits

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

Josh Schwartz   A pullback from platforms and a focus on product

Joanne McNeil   Building a digital hospice

Tim Carmody   Unlocking the commons

Emma Carew Grovum   The year of the loyal reader

Kyra Darnton   A shift to depth in video

Alberto Cairo   A year of uncertainty and confidence

Talia Stroud   Engaging people across lines of difference

Heba Aly   The rise of international nonprofit news

Francesco Marconi   The year of iterative journalism

Adam Thomas   In Europe, foundations invest in news

Laura E. Davis   More access, but not that kind

Brian Moritz   The subscription-pocalypse is about to hit

Mike Caulfield   Ditch the media literacy cynicism and get to work

Elite Truong   What do we owe the next generation?

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

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

Soo Oh   Just showing our work isn’t enough

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

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

Andrew Ramsammy   The great re-pivot to audio

Dave Burdick   Seeing our blind spots

Kevin Douglas Grant   A year to embrace journalism as public service

Becca Aaronson   From bridge roles to product thinkers

Kawandeep Virdee   Media wants to take care of you

Gideon Lichfield   Goodbye attention economy, we’ll miss you

Ernie Smith   The year we step back from the platform

Steve Henn   Smart speakers get smarter

Tamar Charney   Seriously: What do you do for people?

Jared Newman   AI-generated fakes launch a software arms race

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

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

Rick Berke   The year of loyalty

Bill Grueskin   Toward a symphony model for local news

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

Sue Cross   Return of the water cooler

Ben Smith   The pendulum starts to swing back

Almar Latour   Reported facts, weaponized in service of action

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

Annie Rudd   A more intimate aesthetic of politics — on Insta

Elva Ramirez   News — but make it cinematic

Rubina Madan Fillion   Fighting the reality of deepfakes

Jonathan Gill   Publishers build a common tech platform together

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting is media’s slow food movement

Cătălina Albeanu   Being responsible for what we don’t know

Taylor Lorenz   Personal branding is more powerful than ever

Mariana Moura Santos   From pageviews to impact

Sarah Marshall   A return to destination journalism

Candis Callison   Learn from Indigenous journalists on covering climate change

Joe Amditis   Give the audience a seat at the table

Jesse Brown   Canada’s subsidy for news backfires

Joshua Darr   The nationalization of political news will accelerate

Patrick Butler   Measuring impact will increase audience trust

Nisha Chittal   The homepage makes a comeback

Moreno Cruz Osório   Damaged credibility and a new threat in Brazil

Colleen Shalby   Representation becomes more than a talking point

Meredith Artley   Huge demand for…anything but politics

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

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

Carolina Guerrero   Spanish-language audio blows up

Pablo Boczkowski   Reimagining the media for post-institutional times

Nico Gendron   Reaching Generation Z beyond the coasts

Stefanie Murray   Local news wakes up and starts collaborating

Renée Kaplan   Our future could lie within our own organizations

Jonas Kaiser   Catching up with “Neuland”

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

Francesco Zaffarano   Towards a rethinking of journalism on social media

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   Podcasting battles East Coast bias

Callie Schweitzer   The rise of the conveners

Cory Bergman   Journalism as a technology service

Rachel Glickhouse   Newsrooms will prioritize audience needs

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

Shalabh Upadhyay   A culture clash on India’s growing Internet

Logan Molyneux   Seeing social media for what it is

Jeff Chin   We detox from Chartbeat

Reyhan Harmanci   Selling more stories to Hollywood

P. Kim Bui   The misfits become the bosses

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

Sarah Alvarez   Simplify and redistribute

Errin Haines Whack   Say it with me: Racism

Johannes Klingebiel   We all grow hooves

Jeremy Gilbert   AI finally becomes helpful

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

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Readers are only getting started

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

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

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

Seema Yasmin   We will create our own spaces

Justin Kosslyn   Text hits a tipping point

Victor Pickard   We will finally confront systemic market failure

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

Marie Shanahan   Newsrooms take the comments sections back from platforms

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

Winny de Jong   Data journalism goes undercover

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

Michael Grant   More newsrooms experiment their way to success

Gabriel Snyder   Journalism doesn’t fit well in a funnel

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

Don Day   Timewalls and other reader revenue experiments

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

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

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

Kristen Muller   Local news fails — in a good way

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

Mandy Velez   Putting the social back in social media

Zizi Papacharissi   Old interface, say hello to the new interface

Ruth Palmer and Benjamin Toff   From news fatigue to news avoidance

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

Steve Grove   A reckoning for tech’s work with news

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

Eric Ulken   The year you actually start to like your CMS

Greg Emerson   Power to the user

Matt Skibinski   Quality and reliability are the new currencies for publishers

Jim Friedlich   Meet Citizen Kane 2.0

Ben Werdmuller   The platform tide is turning

Ståle Grut   A new dawn for 3D tech in journalism

Libby Bawcombe   Haikus of the news

Angèle Christin   Algorithms and the reflexive turn

Dheerja Kaur   A focus on problems, not platforms

Rachel Davis Mersey   Local news goes minimalist

Nathalie Malinarich   Video — yes, video

Borja Bergareche Sainz de los Terreros   Entering a more balanced era

Julia Rubin   Meeting people where they are

Carl Bialik   Fatigued news consumers will pay more for less news

Cherian George   Fake news wins in Asia

Peter Cunliffe-Jones   The focus of misinformation debates shifts south

LaToya Drake   Listen up: New stories, new storytellers

Darryl Holliday   Let’s talk about power (yours)

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

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

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

Masuma Ahuja   Make foreign coverage less foreign

Adam Smith   Platforms will have to help rebuild trust in news

Mat Yurow   Content competition from the tech companies

Mario García   The rise of content “pilots”

Ariel Zirulnick   Participation gets professional

Robert Hernandez   Racists and sexists get replaced

Celeste LeCompte   Local news needs local conversation to survive

Matthew Pressman   The battle over objectivity intensifies

Lauren Katz   Community becomes a core newsroom value