2
0
1
9

Local news fails — in a good way

“If local newsrooms are going to achieve digital sustainability, we must try new things. That means getting out of our own way and taking risks, while knowing some attempts will fail.”

I like to believe I have a growth mindset. When my kids fail at something, I help them step back and evaluate what they learned. I’m not above quoting Einstein — “anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new” — or invoking superheroes to make my point.

But that message is a much harder sell in a local newsroom.

Some of that stems from the way we’ve been trained. There’s simply no room for failure when it comes to reporting the facts. You’re taught to get it right the first time, or else.

Also, local newsrooms are strapped for resources and don’t have the time or money that could allow for experimentation and, in turn, failures.

But if local newsrooms are going to achieve digital sustainability, we must try new things. We need to experiment with different approaches to coverage and revenue. We have to deepen the relationship we have with existing audiences and start designing for new ones, without sacrificing fairness and accuracy. That means getting out of our own way and taking risks, while knowing some attempts will fail.

Failing may be the easy part. We’ll need to be careful how we communicate what worked and what didn’t. Creating a culture of experimentation means sharing those lessons widely, not just within a team. Success can be even harder because it may require tough decisions about what you need to stop doing in order to start something else.

I’m encouraged by the increasing number of local, legacy newsrooms that are taking a structured approach to experimentation and failure (looking at you, Sacramento Bee). They are designing for audience’s shared interests, testing different kinds of coverage and failing quickly. They are squarely focused on growing their local and loyal digital audience and kill activities that don’t connect to that goal. These newsrooms will learn what works and what doesn’t way faster than those who aren’t even trying.

As more attention is paid to the crisis in local news, it’s critical that more journalists embrace failure, and share their mistakes as they go. The Table Stakes program is leading the way, highlighting case studies of experiments at the local level.

My new year’s resolution is to practice more of what I preach to my kids (not everything, though, because if given the chance I will always eat dessert first) and find a way to incentivize experimentation. The future of local news depends on it.

Kristen Muller is chief content officer at KPCC.

Celeste LeCompte   Local news needs local conversation to survive

Dan Shanoff   Bet on sports gambling

Nisha Chittal   The homepage makes a comeback

Libby Bawcombe   Haikus of the news

Almar Latour   Reported facts, weaponized in service of action

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

Kainaz Amaria   We consider who’s behind the camera

Jonathan Gill   Publishers build a common tech platform together

Alexis Lloyd & Matt Boggie   The year product leads media

Taylor Lorenz   Personal branding is more powerful than ever

Robert Hernandez   Racists and sexists get replaced

Cherian George   Fake news wins in Asia

Emma Carew Grovum   The year of the loyal reader

Andrew Ramsammy   The great re-pivot to audio

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

Elizabeth Jensen   Going where the Acela can’t take you

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

Pablo Boczkowski   Reimagining the media for post-institutional times

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

Charo Henríquez   Pivot to journalism

John Saroff   The pivot to reader revenue’s unintended consequences

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

Rachel Glickhouse   Newsrooms will prioritize audience needs

Alberto Cairo   A year of uncertainty and confidence

Joel Konopo   Influencers become the new liberated power in Africa

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   Podcasting battles East Coast bias

Francesco Zaffarano   Towards a rethinking of journalism on social media

Candis Callison   Learn from Indigenous journalists on covering climate change

Andrea Faye Hart   Doing less harm, not just more good

Rodney Gibbs   A bright — and young — year for audio

Jared Newman   AI-generated fakes launch a software arms race

Steve Henn   Smart speakers get smarter

Jonas Kaiser   Catching up with “Neuland”

Joe Amditis   Give the audience a seat at the table

Joanne McNeil   Building a digital hospice

Josh Schwartz   A pullback from platforms and a focus on product

M. Scott Havens   Time to swing for the fences

Ståle Grut   A new dawn for 3D tech in journalism

Stefanie Murray   Local news wakes up and starts collaborating

Bill Grueskin   Toward a symphony model for local news

Linda Solomon Wood   The year of the climate reporter

Adam Thomas   In Europe, foundations invest in news

Callie Schweitzer   The rise of the conveners

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

Angèle Christin   Algorithms and the reflexive turn

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

Renée Kaplan   Our future could lie within our own organizations

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

Kevin D. Grant   A year to embrace journalism as public service

Dheerja Kaur   A focus on problems, not platforms

Don Day   Timewalls and other reader revenue experiments

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

Mat Yurow   Content competition from the tech companies

Cory Bergman   Journalism as a technology service

Rick Berke   The year of loyalty

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

Ben Smith   The pendulum starts to swing back

Heba Aly   The rise of international nonprofit news

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

A.J. Bauer   The coming splintering of conservative media

Sue Cross   Return of the water cooler

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

Jack Riley   Facebook refugees, from ad revenue to news habits

Rebecca Searles   From silos to Swiss Army knife teams

Rishad Patel   A design system for responsible publishing

Salem Solomon   Correcting our corrections

Greg Emerson   Power to the user

Kelsey Proud   Journalism becomes the escape

Ernie Smith   The year we step back from the platform

Alexandra Svokos   Good luck convincing us millennials to pay

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

Becca Aaronson   From bridge roles to product thinkers

Talia Stroud   Engaging people across lines of difference

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

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

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

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

Kate Myers   Journalism continues to be bad for democracy

Ben Werdmuller   The platform tide is turning

Knight Foundation   A year of local collaboration

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

John Garrett   You can’t raise prices forever

Gabriel Snyder   Journalism doesn’t fit well in a funnel

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

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

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

Jean Friedman Rudovsky   Cross-newsroom collaborations strengthen communities

Kristen Muller   Local news fails — in a good way

Patrick Butler   Measuring impact will increase audience trust

Tim Carmody   Unlocking the commons

Nicholas Jackson   More transparency around newsroom decisions

Matt Skibinski   Quality and reliability are the new currencies for publishers

Masuma Ahuja   Make foreign coverage less foreign

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

Thomas Hanitzsch   The rise of tribal journalism

Jeff Chin   We detox from Chartbeat

LaToya Drake   Listen up: New stories, new storytellers

Ruth Palmer and Benjamin Toff   From news fatigue to news avoidance

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

Moreno Cruz Osório   Damaged credibility and a new threat in Brazil

Reyhan Harmanci   Selling more stories to Hollywood

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

Mandy Velez   Putting the social back in social media

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

Johannes Klingebiel   We all grow hooves

Eric Ulken   The year you actually start to like your CMS

Nico Gendron   Reaching Generation Z beyond the coasts

Dave Burdick   Seeing our blind spots

Catalina Albeanu   Being responsible for what we don’t know

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

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

Michael Grant   More newsrooms experiment their way to success

Bill Adair   Another year fighting Trump’s falsehoods

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

Rubina Madan Fillion   Fighting the reality of deepfakes

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

Laura E. Davis   More access, but not that kind

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

Shannon McGregor   More bogus embedded tweets in our stories

Gideon Lichfield   Goodbye attention economy, we’ll miss you

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Readers are only getting started

Errin Haines   Say it with me: Racism

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

Brian Moritz   The subscription-pocalypse is about to hit

Andrew Donohue   Voting rights becomes the new climate change

Shalabh Upadhyay   A culture clash on India’s growing Internet

Colleen Shalby   Representation becomes more than a talking point

Carolina Guerrero   Spanish-language audio blows up

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

Elite Truong   What do we owe the next generation?

Jeremy Gilbert   AI finally becomes helpful

Sue Robinson   Reporters go on the offensive

Victor Pickard   We will finally confront systemic market failure

Darryl Holliday   Let’s talk about power (yours)

Seema Yasmin   We will create our own spaces

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

Zizi Papacharissi   Old interface, say hello to the new interface

Michael Rain   The year of the culturally relevant curator

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

Eric Nuzum   The year of the DIY podcast network

Christa Scharfenberg and Vickie Baranetsky   The year of the lawsuit

Mandy Jenkins   Fight the urge to run away from social media

Jim Friedlich   Meet Citizen Kane 2.0

Mario García   The rise of content “pilots”

Monique Judge   Committing to the truth, calling out lies

Rachel Davis Mersey   Local news goes minimalist

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

Chase Davis   We can acknowledge what we don’t know

Julie Posetti   The year of the fight back

Annie Rudd   A more intimate aesthetic of politics — on Insta

Mariana Moura Santos   From pageviews to impact

John Biewen   Podcasts keep getting better

Zuzanna Ziomecka   News leadership gets an overdue upgrade

Carl Bialik   Fatigued news consumers will pay more for less news

Winny de Jong   Data journalism goes undercover

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

Francesco Marconi   The year of iterative journalism

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

Geetika Rudra   The year of actionable (local) journalism

Justin Kosslyn   Text hits a tipping point

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

Hearken   Pivot to people

Tamar Charney   Seriously: What do you do for people?

Lauren Katz   Community becomes a core newsroom value

Elizabeth Dunbar   Local reporters reflect on what’s not important

Logan Molyneux   Seeing social media for what it is

Meredith Artley   Huge demand for…anything but politics

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

Jesse Brown   Canada’s subsidy for news backfires

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

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

Borja Bergareche Sainz de los Terreros   Entering a more balanced era

P. Kim Bui   The misfits become the bosses

Adam Smith   Platforms will have to help rebuild trust in news

Ariel Zirulnick   Participation gets professional

Nathalie Malinarich   Video — yes, video

Kyra Darnton   A shift to depth in video

Ole Reißmann   The rise of vertical storytelling

Peter Cunliffe-Jones   The focus of misinformation debates shifts south

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

Soo Oh   Just showing our work isn’t enough

Craig Newmark   The end of “loudspeakers for liars”

Julia Rubin   Meeting people where they are

Joshua Darr   The nationalization of political news will accelerate

Simon Rogers   Data journalism becomes a global field

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

Kawandeep Virdee   Media wants to take care of you

Peter Bale   Venture capital runs out of patience

Steve Grove   A reckoning for tech’s work with news

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting is media’s slow food movement

Elva Ramirez   News — but make it cinematic

Nikki Usher   Three ways national media will further undermine trust

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

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

Renan Borelli   Developing loyalty means developing your talent

Mike Caulfield   Ditch the media literacy cynicism and get to work

Sarah Marshall   A return to destination journalism

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

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

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

Matthew Pressman   The battle over objectivity intensifies

Marie Shanahan   Newsrooms take the comments sections back from platforms

Heather Bryant   We are responsible for how we use our power

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

Sarah Alvarez   Simplify and redistribute