2
0
1
9

Local news goes minimalist

“The evidence that audiences are unwilling to pay for local news is actually clouded by the fact that most local news is not local at all.”

In a local newspaper, anything other than local affairs coverage is competing — without even being too dramatic about it — with the entire Internet. You can find national and international coverage on the websites of national and international news sources and wire services. You can find fashion and lifestyle coverage in any glossy magazine in this category, yes, but also for free on their websites or on sites such as WhoWhatWear and PopSugar. You can find general sports coverage from national broadcast players and the burgeoning field of digital sites like Deadspin and Bleacher Report. The comics page? Try a quick scroll through the memes on Twitter for a laugh. Business coverage? Economics blogs are better than ever, and on The Economist’s digital site, you may read three free articles a week. Book reviews? Just take a moment and search the web for “book reviews.” You do not need your local newspaper to provide this coverage.

In 2019, local news organizations will further pivot away from comprehensive coverage in order to continue to provide value in the marketplace. And the smart ones won’t contract their resources — they’ll redouble them for high-quality local coverage. This offers a few advantages:

  • By investing a newsroom’s remaining resources in high-quality coverage of local issues — and the localization of national and international ones — local news organizations will begin to offer a package that truly cannot be found elsewhere. For some communities, this may mean deep coverage of a local and/or college sports team. It certainly means thoughtful, accountability-focused reporting on government, schools, taxes, businesses, and infrastructure at the local level.
  • Depth of local reporting allows media organizations to expand the breadth of their community coverage to be more inclusive of a diversity of stories, voices, and sources. The better local news reflects its communities, the better the connections among producers and consumers of news will be. Those news–community relationships are central to the health and vibrancy of our democracy at the local level.
  • When the content is available elsewhere — and it’s usually better, free, and pretty easy to find — consumers will not pay for local news organizations’ version. So the evidence that audiences are unwilling to pay for local news is actually clouded by the fact that most local news is not local at all, as recent evidence from the News Measures Research Project at Duke University found. Audiences will not pay for content they access through other sources, but they will pay for content that is unique and valuable to their lives. If local news organizations start providing differentiated, high-quality content, they can start to build business models around it.

And, by the way, beyond all the audience benefits, this is exactly the local news organization where many outstanding journalism students — and long-standing professionals — yearn to work, covering stories that matter to the community.

Rachel Davis Mersey is an assistant professor at the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University.

Mandy Velez   Putting the social back in social media

Kate Myers   Journalism continues to be bad for democracy

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

Joanne McNeil   Building a digital hospice

Errin Haines Whack   Say it with me: Racism

Matt Skibinski   Quality and reliability are the new currencies for publishers

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

Masuma Ahuja   Make foreign coverage less foreign

Pablo Boczkowski   Reimagining the media for post-institutional times

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

Renan Borelli   Developing loyalty means developing your talent

Jeff Chin   We detox from Chartbeat

Eric Nuzum   The year of the DIY podcast network

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

Celeste LeCompte   Local news needs local conversation to survive

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

Tamar Charney   Seriously: What do you do for people?

Mike Caulfield   Ditch the media literacy cynicism and get to work

Thomas Hanitzsch   The rise of tribal journalism

Knight Foundation   A year of local collaboration

Ruth Palmer and Benjamin Toff   From news fatigue to news avoidance

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

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

Meredith Artley   Huge demand for…anything but politics

Kyra Darnton   A shift to depth in video

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

Nico Gendron   Reaching Generation Z beyond the coasts

Kevin Douglas Grant   A year to embrace journalism as public service

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

Bill Adair   Another year fighting Trump’s falsehoods

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

Jack Riley   Facebook refugees, from ad revenue to news habits

Shalabh Upadhyay   A culture clash on India’s growing Internet

Greg Emerson   Power to the user

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

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

Moreno Cruz Osório   Damaged credibility and a new threat in Brazil

Sue Robinson   Reporters go on the offensive

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

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

Andrew Ramsammy   The great re-pivot to audio

Cory Bergman   Journalism as a technology service

Kelsey Proud   Journalism becomes the escape

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

John Garrett   You can’t raise prices forever

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

Dan Shanoff   Bet on sports gambling

Lauren Katz   Community becomes a core newsroom value

Victor Pickard   We will finally confront systemic market failure

Mariana Moura Santos   From pageviews to impact

Ariel Zirulnick   Participation gets professional

Cherian George   Fake news wins in Asia

Michael Grant   More newsrooms experiment their way to success

Winny de Jong   Data journalism goes undercover

Jim Friedlich   Meet Citizen Kane 2.0

Jonathan Gill   Publishers build a common tech platform together

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

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

Heather Bryant   We are responsible for how we use our power

Joel Konopo   Influencers become the new liberated power in Africa

Talia Stroud   Engaging people across lines of difference

Matthew Pressman   The battle over objectivity intensifies

Almar Latour   Reported facts, weaponized in service of action

Emma Carew Grovum   The year of the loyal reader

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

Ståle Grut   A new dawn for 3D tech in journalism

Gideon Lichfield   Goodbye attention economy, we’ll miss you

Jonas Kaiser   Catching up with “Neuland”

Peter Bale   Venture capital runs out of patience

Carolina Guerrero   Spanish-language audio blows up

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

Francesco Zaffarano   Towards a rethinking of journalism on social media

Rachel Glickhouse   Newsrooms will prioritize audience needs

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

Jean Friedman Rudovsky   Cross-newsroom collaborations strengthen communities

Brian Moritz   The subscription-pocalypse is about to hit

Joshua Darr   The nationalization of political news will accelerate

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Readers are only getting started

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

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   Podcasting battles East Coast bias

Peter Cunliffe-Jones   The focus of misinformation debates shifts south

Dave Burdick   Seeing our blind spots

Kawandeep Virdee   Media wants to take care of you

Steve Grove   A reckoning for tech’s work with news

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

Colleen Shalby   Representation becomes more than a talking point

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

Candis Callison   Learn from Indigenous journalists on covering climate change

Adam Smith   Platforms will have to help rebuild trust in news

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

LaToya Drake   Listen up: New stories, new storytellers

Chase Davis   We can acknowledge what we don’t know

Sarah Alvarez   Simplify and redistribute

Elizabeth Jensen   Going where the Acela can’t take you

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

Annie Rudd   A more intimate aesthetic of politics — on Insta

Zizi Papacharissi   Old interface, say hello to the new interface

Mario García   The rise of content “pilots”

Steve Henn   Smart speakers get smarter

Rebecca Searles   From silos to Swiss Army knife teams

Jeremy Gilbert   AI finally becomes helpful

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

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

Rachel Davis Mersey   Local news goes minimalist

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

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

Mat Yurow   Content competition from the tech companies

Alberto Cairo   A year of uncertainty and confidence

Julia Rubin   Meeting people where they are

Alexis Lloyd & Matt Boggie   The year product leads media

Elite Truong   What do we owe the next generation?

Craig Newmark   The end of “loudspeakers for liars”

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

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

John Biewen   Podcasts keep getting better

Ernie Smith   The year we step back from the platform

Seema Yasmin   We will create our own spaces

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

Callie Schweitzer   The rise of the conveners

Johannes Klingebiel   We all grow hooves

John Saroff   The pivot to reader revenue’s unintended consequences

Kainaz Amaria   We consider who’s behind the camera

Tim Carmody   Unlocking the commons

Julie Posetti   The year of the fight back

Taylor Lorenz   Personal branding is more powerful than ever

Rishad Patel   A design system for responsible publishing

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

Josh Schwartz   A pullback from platforms and a focus on product

Joe Amditis   Give the audience a seat at the table

Rick Berke   The year of loyalty

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

Salem Solomon   Correcting our corrections

Ole Reißmann   The rise of vertical storytelling

Eric Ulken   The year you actually start to like your CMS

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

Jesse Brown   Canada’s subsidy for news backfires

Laura E. Davis   More access, but not that kind

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

Sue Cross   Return of the water cooler

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

Elizabeth Dunbar   Local reporters reflect on what’s not important

Patrick Butler   Measuring impact will increase audience trust

Nisha Chittal   The homepage makes a comeback

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

Heba Aly   The rise of international nonprofit news

Logan Molyneux   Seeing social media for what it is

Christa Scharfenberg and Vickie Baranetsky   The year of the lawsuit

Monique Judge   Committing to the truth, calling out lies

Francesco Marconi   The year of iterative journalism

Andrew Donohue   Voting rights becomes the new climate change

Nikki Usher   Three ways national media will further undermine trust

Bill Grueskin   Toward a symphony model for local news

Linda Solomon Wood   The year of the climate reporter

Carl Bialik   Fatigued news consumers will pay more for less news

Rodney Gibbs   A bright — and young — year for audio

Libby Bawcombe   Haikus of the news

Charo Henríquez   Pivot to journalism

Zuzanna Ziomecka   News leadership gets an overdue upgrade

Marie Shanahan   Newsrooms take the comments sections back from platforms

Borja Bergareche Sainz de los Terreros   Entering a more balanced era

Michael Rain   The year of the culturally relevant curator

Ben Werdmuller   The platform tide is turning

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting is media’s slow food movement

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

Sarah Marshall   A return to destination journalism

Nathalie Malinarich   Video — yes, video

Adam Thomas   In Europe, foundations invest in news

Ben Smith   The pendulum starts to swing back

Becca Aaronson   From bridge roles to product thinkers

Darryl Holliday   Let’s talk about power (yours)

Kristen Muller   Local news fails — in a good way

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

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

Don Day   Timewalls and other reader revenue experiments

Hearken   Pivot to people

Robert Hernandez   Racists and sexists get replaced

Mandy Jenkins   Fight the urge to run away from social media

M. Scott Havens   Time to swing for the fences

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

Stefanie Murray   Local news wakes up and starts collaborating

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

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

Dheerja Kaur   A focus on problems, not platforms

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

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

Reyhan Harmanci   Selling more stories to Hollywood

A.J. Bauer   The coming splintering of conservative media

Cătălina Albeanu   Being responsible for what we don’t know

Justin Kosslyn   Text hits a tipping point

Alexandra Svokos   Good luck convincing us millennials to pay

Elva Ramirez   News — but make it cinematic

Soo Oh   Just showing our work isn’t enough

Shannon McGregor   More bogus embedded tweets in our stories

Renée Kaplan   Our future could lie within our own organizations

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

Angèle Christin   Algorithms and the reflexive turn

Jared Newman   AI-generated fakes launch a software arms race

Gabriel Snyder   Journalism doesn’t fit well in a funnel

P. Kim Bui   The misfits become the bosses

Nicholas Jackson   More transparency around newsroom decisions

Simon Rogers   Data journalism becomes a global field

Andrea Faye Hart   Doing less harm, not just more good

Rubina Madan Fillion   Fighting the reality of deepfakes

Geetika Rudra   The year of actionable (local) journalism

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