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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.

Dheerja Kaur   A focus on problems, not platforms

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

Ariel Zirulnick   Participation gets professional

Zizi Papacharissi   Old interface, say hello to the new interface

Monique Judge   Committing to the truth, calling out lies

Winny de Jong   Data journalism goes undercover

Errin Haines   Say it with me: Racism

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

Rachel Davis Mersey   Local news goes minimalist

Francesco Zaffarano   Towards a rethinking of journalism on social media

Cherian George   Fake news wins in Asia

Hearken   Pivot to people

Peter Cunliffe-Jones   The focus of misinformation debates shifts south

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

Johannes Klingebiel   We all grow hooves

Ben Werdmuller   The platform tide is turning

Ståle Grut   A new dawn for 3D tech in journalism

LaToya Drake   Listen up: New stories, new storytellers

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

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   Podcasting battles East Coast bias

Cory Bergman   Journalism as a technology service

Rick Berke   The year of loyalty

Joanne McNeil   Building a digital hospice

Alexis Lloyd & Matt Boggie   The year product leads media

Renan Borelli   Developing loyalty means developing your talent

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

Jesse Brown   Canada’s subsidy for news backfires

Soo Oh   Just showing our work isn’t enough

Nathalie Malinarich   Video — yes, video

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

Mariana Moura Santos   From pageviews to impact

Sue Robinson   Reporters go on the offensive

Jeremy Gilbert   AI finally becomes helpful

Ernie Smith   The year we step back from the platform

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

Kawandeep Virdee   Media wants to take care of you

Gideon Lichfield   Goodbye attention economy, we’ll miss you

Kelsey Proud   Journalism becomes the escape

Zuzanna Ziomecka   News leadership gets an overdue upgrade

Joel Konopo   Influencers become the new liberated power in Africa

Jean Friedman Rudovsky   Cross-newsroom collaborations strengthen communities

Elite Truong   What do we owe the next generation?

Matt Skibinski   Quality and reliability are the new currencies for publishers

Libby Bawcombe   Haikus of the news

Laura E. Davis   More access, but not that kind

Jack Riley   Facebook refugees, from ad revenue to news habits

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

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

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

Kevin Douglas Grant   A year to embrace journalism as public service

Chase Davis   We can acknowledge what we don’t know

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

Shannon McGregor   More bogus embedded tweets in our stories

Joe Amditis   Give the audience a seat at the table

Kainaz Amaria   We consider who’s behind the camera

Ben Smith   The pendulum starts to swing back

Becca Aaronson   From bridge roles to product thinkers

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

Nicholas Jackson   More transparency around newsroom decisions

Jared Newman   AI-generated fakes launch a software arms race

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

Rubina Madan Fillion   Fighting the reality of deepfakes

Celeste LeCompte   Local news needs local conversation to survive

Colleen Shalby   Representation becomes more than a talking point

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

Simon Rogers   Data journalism becomes a global field

Andrea Faye Hart   Doing less harm, not just more good

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

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

Masuma Ahuja   Make foreign coverage less foreign

Nikki Usher   Three ways national media will further undermine trust

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

Julie Posetti   The year of the fight back

Shalabh Upadhyay   A culture clash on India’s growing Internet

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

Josh Schwartz   A pullback from platforms and a focus on product

John Biewen   Podcasts keep getting better

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

Mat Yurow   Content competition from the tech companies

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

Marie Shanahan   Newsrooms take the comments sections back from platforms

Robert Hernandez   Racists and sexists get replaced

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

Peter Bale   Venture capital runs out of patience

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

Christa Scharfenberg and Vickie Baranetsky   The year of the lawsuit

Mario García   The rise of content “pilots”

Elizabeth Dunbar   Local reporters reflect on what’s not important

Greg Emerson   Power to the user

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

John Saroff   The pivot to reader revenue’s unintended consequences

Elva Ramirez   News — but make it cinematic

Meredith Artley   Huge demand for…anything but politics

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

Sarah Marshall   A return to destination journalism

Andrew Ramsammy   The great re-pivot to audio

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

Sue Cross   Return of the water cooler

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

Heather Bryant   We are responsible for how we use our power

M. Scott Havens   Time to swing for the fences

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

Dave Burdick   Seeing our blind spots

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

Jonathan Gill   Publishers build a common tech platform together

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

Brian Moritz   The subscription-pocalypse is about to hit

Adam Thomas   In Europe, foundations invest in news

Rishad Patel   A design system for responsible publishing

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

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

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

Nico Gendron   Reaching Generation Z beyond the coasts

Darryl Holliday   Let’s talk about power (yours)

Steve Henn   Smart speakers get smarter

Candis Callison   Learn from Indigenous journalists on covering climate change

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

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Readers are only getting started

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

Eric Ulken   The year you actually start to like your CMS

Thomas Hanitzsch   The rise of tribal journalism

Sarah Alvarez   Simplify and redistribute

Francesco Marconi   The year of iterative journalism

Jonas Kaiser   Catching up with “Neuland”

Lauren Katz   Community becomes a core newsroom value

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

Tamar Charney   Seriously: What do you do for people?

Jeff Chin   We detox from Chartbeat

Michael Grant   More newsrooms experiment their way to success

Carolina Guerrero   Spanish-language audio blows up

Angèle Christin   Algorithms and the reflexive turn

Mandy Velez   Putting the social back in social media

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

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

Callie Schweitzer   The rise of the conveners

Mike Caulfield   Ditch the media literacy cynicism and get to work

Moreno Cruz Osório   Damaged credibility and a new threat in Brazil

Logan Molyneux   Seeing social media for what it is

Borja Bergareche Sainz de los Terreros   Entering a more balanced era

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

Charo Henríquez   Pivot to journalism

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

Justin Kosslyn   Text hits a tipping point

Kristen Muller   Local news fails — in a good way

Carl Bialik   Fatigued news consumers will pay more for less news

Adam Smith   Platforms will have to help rebuild trust in news

Ole Reißmann   The rise of vertical storytelling

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

Dan Shanoff   Bet on sports gambling

Alexandra Svokos   Good luck convincing us millennials to pay

Patrick Butler   Measuring impact will increase audience trust

Matthew Pressman   The battle over objectivity intensifies

Catalina Albeanu   Being responsible for what we don’t know

P. Kim Bui   The misfits become the bosses

Kyra Darnton   A shift to depth in video

Rebecca Searles   From silos to Swiss Army knife teams

Ruth Palmer and Benjamin Toff   From news fatigue to news avoidance

A.J. Bauer   The coming splintering of conservative media

Emma Carew Grovum   The year of the loyal reader

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

Gabriel Snyder   Journalism doesn’t fit well in a funnel

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

Eric Nuzum   The year of the DIY podcast network

Geetika Rudra   The year of actionable (local) journalism

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting is media’s slow food movement

Linda Solomon Wood   The year of the climate reporter

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

Knight Foundation   A year of local collaboration

Talia Stroud   Engaging people across lines of difference

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

Kate Myers   Journalism continues to be bad for democracy

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

Mandy Jenkins   Fight the urge to run away from social media

Heba Aly   The rise of international nonprofit news

Taylor Lorenz   Personal branding is more powerful than ever

Jim Friedlich   Meet Citizen Kane 2.0

Reyhan Harmanci   Selling more stories to Hollywood

Tim Carmody   Unlocking the commons

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

Nisha Chittal   The homepage makes a comeback

Don Day   Timewalls and other reader revenue experiments

Stefanie Murray   Local news wakes up and starts collaborating

Alberto Cairo   A year of uncertainty and confidence

Rodney Gibbs   A bright — and young — year for audio

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

Andrew Donohue   Voting rights becomes the new climate change

Bill Grueskin   Toward a symphony model for local news

Pablo Boczkowski   Reimagining the media for post-institutional times

Steve Grove   A reckoning for tech’s work with news

John Garrett   You can’t raise prices forever

Annie Rudd   A more intimate aesthetic of politics — on Insta

Craig Newmark   The end of “loudspeakers for liars”

Joshua Darr   The nationalization of political news will accelerate

Renée Kaplan   Our future could lie within our own organizations

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

Julia Rubin   Meeting people where they are

Rachel Glickhouse   Newsrooms will prioritize audience needs

Elizabeth Jensen   Going where the Acela can’t take you

Almar Latour   Reported facts, weaponized in service of action

Michael Rain   The year of the culturally relevant curator

Seema Yasmin   We will create our own spaces

Victor Pickard   We will finally confront systemic market failure

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

Bill Adair   Another year fighting Trump’s falsehoods

Salem Solomon   Correcting our corrections