2
0
1
9

Participation gets professional

“There’s an endless list of ‘jobs to be done’ in a news organization that audience members can be trained to do — or might already do better than journalists.”

As we close out 2018, the idea of letting audience questions drive reporting has become mainstream. (There are even awards for it now!) From legacy metros to one-year-old startups, many of us are in agreement that it’s a no-brainer way to establish trust and create journalism that audience members will actually find useful, even if not all news organizations are doing it yet.

In 2019, we’ll see the industry invite audience members to make journalism with us.

Early successes will prompt journalists to start seeing audience involvement less as a liability to be managed and more as an asset to expand their scope and impact. And we’ll see a whole slew of new newsroom roles and re-imagined current ones emerge to support that work.

The boom in membership for news is one of the things driving this shift (interest in solutions, movement, and engaged journalism are others). Organizations know they need to offer members — who are buying into a mission, not purchasing a product — meaningful relationships.

That’s pushing them to be more creative about the ways they involve non-journalists — inviting them to help them comb complex databases, track disinformation and hate speech, and make improvements to their website. (At the Membership Puzzle Project, we’ve already seen more than a dozen proposals like this in applications for the Membership in News Fund.)

Movements like “citizen science” show experts finding ways to leverage passionate laypeople to expand their impact. I think journalists will similarly step back from the idea that only they can make journalism.

An asset, not a liability

Earlier this year, journalism entrepreneur Philip Smith asked what would happen to the local media landscape as legacy news organizations “faltered” and lean digital startups stepped in to fill the void. What would a network of “small is beautiful” news organizations sufficient to fill the widening gap in coverage look like?

One of the concerns you hear most often is about the size of those startups. (We heard this at The New Tropic, where I was the director until November.) With only a handful of reporters, can they really fill the void?

On their own, probably not. (And many aren’t trying to, anyway.) But if they figure out how to leverage their audience’s expertise and enthusiasm — something they’re primed to do because they’re often nailing the audience engagement element of it already — they will bring “wants but can’ts” — like event series, ambitious investigative projects, and searchable databases of municipal data — within their reach.

“What’s your superpower?”

What does leveraging that expertise and enthusiasm look like? At the Spanish fact-checking platform Maldita, they recently surveyed their several thousand “Malditos.” One of the questions they asked was, “What’s your superpower?”

“Maybe you are a great designer who can convince us to finally stop using Paint, or maybe you’re a handyman and you think it’s time that our office has a door and you are willing to help us build it.”

With that ask, Maldita stretched the concept of how someone can contribute to their work. (Also, if you happen to be a handyman in Madrid, they really do need a door.) Their next step will be adding respondents and their “superpowers” to a database that they can tap at any time.

Another creative approach comes from Newslaundry, a sassy digital news site in India. It has a handful of its superfans managing the daily maintenance of its website, which is written in a coding language that no one currently on their tech team knows well. Handing the keys to your website over to volunteers requires some serious trust.

There’s an endless list of “jobs to be done” in a news organization that audience members can be trained to do — or might already do better than journalists. To name a few:

  • curating
  • documenting
  • fact checking
  • technical proofreading
  • beta testing
  • collecting data
  • guiding

See our project’s examples of current collaborations and jobs you might task your own super fans with.

There’s one caveat to giving “jobs to be done” to audience members, though — they’re not signing on to be your labor. They’re signing on to share their passion with you. Treat their involvement accordingly.

Enter the community organizers

Managing an informal network of participants is totally different than managing a team of reporters. Being a really good interviewer doesn’t necessarily translate into the ability to command a room.

News organizations like The Bureau Local and The Bristol Cable in the U.K. have community managers, often non-journalists with backgrounds in community organizing. They bring skills that traditional journalists often don’t have, like the ability to excite and motivate large numbers of strangers toward a common goal and to connect across lines of difference in their community.

But for these audience involvement efforts to succeed, they need more than those soft skills. They need cash, organization, and newsroom-wide support — and a point person sitting at the nexus of editorial, revenue, and engagement.

Newsrooms will need to professionalize the practice of audience participation, and in 2019, we’ll see the emergence of new newsroom roles to that reflect that.

Darryl Holliday   Let’s talk about power (yours)

Colleen Shalby   Representation becomes more than a talking point

Emma Carew Grovum   The year of the loyal reader

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

Dave Burdick   Seeing our blind spots

Meredith Artley   Huge demand for…anything but politics

Joe Amditis   Give the audience a seat at the table

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

Cory Bergman   Journalism as a technology service

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

Masuma Ahuja   Make foreign coverage less foreign

Alexis Lloyd & Matt Boggie   The year product leads media

Matt Skibinski   Quality and reliability are the new currencies for publishers

Jared Newman   AI-generated fakes launch a software arms race

Eric Nuzum   The year of the DIY podcast network

Greg Emerson   Power to the user

P. Kim Bui   The misfits become the bosses

Mandy Jenkins   Fight the urge to run away from social media

Sarah Alvarez   Simplify and redistribute

Ruth Palmer and Benjamin Toff   From news fatigue to news avoidance

Mat Yurow   Content competition from the tech companies

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

Candis Callison   Learn from Indigenous journalists on covering climate change

LaToya Drake   Listen up: New stories, new storytellers

Kate Myers   Journalism continues to be bad for democracy

Adam Smith   Platforms will have to help rebuild trust in news

Libby Bawcombe   Haikus of the news

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

Michael Grant   More newsrooms experiment their way to success

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

Shalabh Upadhyay   A culture clash on India’s growing Internet

Josh Schwartz   A pullback from platforms and a focus on product

Reyhan Harmanci   Selling more stories to Hollywood

Borja Bergareche Sainz de los Terreros   Entering a more balanced era

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

Jeff Chin   We detox from Chartbeat

Sarah Marshall   A return to destination journalism

Jesse Brown   Canada’s subsidy for news backfires

Pablo Boczkowski   Reimagining the media for post-institutional times

Talia Stroud   Engaging people across lines of difference

Dheerja Kaur   A focus on problems, not platforms

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

Marie Shanahan   Newsrooms take the comments sections back from platforms

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

Don Day   Timewalls and other reader revenue experiments

Kainaz Amaria   We consider who’s behind the camera

Rishad Patel   A design system for responsible publishing

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

Alberto Cairo   A year of uncertainty and confidence

Moreno Cruz Osório   Damaged credibility and a new threat in Brazil

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

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

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

Laura E. Davis   More access, but not that kind

Soo Oh   Just showing our work isn’t enough

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

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

Nisha Chittal   The homepage makes a comeback

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

Charo Henríquez   Pivot to journalism

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

Taylor Lorenz   Personal branding is more powerful than ever

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting is media’s slow food movement

Bill Grueskin   Toward a symphony model for local news

Logan Molyneux   Seeing social media for what it is

Kevin Douglas Grant   A year to embrace journalism as public service

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

John Garrett   You can’t raise prices forever

Chase Davis   We can acknowledge what we don’t know

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

John Biewen   Podcasts keep getting better

Jean Friedman Rudovsky   Cross-newsroom collaborations strengthen communities

Carl Bialik   Fatigued news consumers will pay more for less news

Bill Adair   Another year fighting Trump’s falsehoods

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

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

Rebecca Searles   From silos to Swiss Army knife teams

Mandy Velez   Putting the social back in social media

Ben Werdmuller   The platform tide is turning

Brian Moritz   The subscription-pocalypse is about to hit

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

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

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

Andrea Faye Hart   Doing less harm, not just more good

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

Andrew Ramsammy   The great re-pivot to audio

Elite Truong   What do we owe the next generation?

Kelsey Proud   Journalism becomes the escape

Renée Kaplan   Our future could lie within our own organizations

Jonas Kaiser   Catching up with “Neuland”

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

Ariel Zirulnick   Participation gets professional

Rodney Gibbs   A bright — and young — year for audio

Mariana Moura Santos   From pageviews to impact

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

Francesco Marconi   The year of iterative journalism

Matthew Pressman   The battle over objectivity intensifies

Mike Caulfield   Ditch the media literacy cynicism and get to work

Elizabeth Dunbar   Local reporters reflect on what’s not important

Joel Konopo   Influencers become the new liberated power in Africa

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

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

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

Hearken   Pivot to people

Ole Reißmann   The rise of vertical storytelling

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

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

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

Errin Haines Whack   Say it with me: Racism

Winny de Jong   Data journalism goes undercover

Becca Aaronson   From bridge roles to product thinkers

Monique Judge   Committing to the truth, calling out lies

Rachel Glickhouse   Newsrooms will prioritize audience needs

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

Nikki Usher   Three ways national media will further undermine trust

Jonathan Gill   Publishers build a common tech platform together

Rubina Madan Fillion   Fighting the reality of deepfakes

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

Jack Riley   Facebook refugees, from ad revenue to news habits

John Saroff   The pivot to reader revenue’s unintended consequences

Nathalie Malinarich   Video — yes, video

Cherian George   Fake news wins in Asia

Nicholas Jackson   More transparency around newsroom decisions

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

Craig Newmark   The end of “loudspeakers for liars”

Victor Pickard   We will finally confront systemic market failure

Salem Solomon   Correcting our corrections

Sue Cross   Return of the water cooler

A.J. Bauer   The coming splintering of conservative media

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

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

Geetika Rudra   The year of actionable (local) journalism

Stefanie Murray   Local news wakes up and starts collaborating

Johannes Klingebiel   We all grow hooves

Andrew Donohue   Voting rights becomes the new climate change

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

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

Eric Ulken   The year you actually start to like your CMS

Annie Rudd   A more intimate aesthetic of politics — on Insta

Christa Scharfenberg and Vickie Baranetsky   The year of the lawsuit

Renan Borelli   Developing loyalty means developing your talent

Knight Foundation   A year of local collaboration

Heather Bryant   We are responsible for how we use our power

Patrick Butler   Measuring impact will increase audience trust

Tamar Charney   Seriously: What do you do for people?

Peter Cunliffe-Jones   The focus of misinformation debates shifts south

Simon Rogers   Data journalism becomes a global field

Sue Robinson   Reporters go on the offensive

Celeste LeCompte   Local news needs local conversation to survive

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

Shannon McGregor   More bogus embedded tweets in our stories

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

Jim Friedlich   Meet Citizen Kane 2.0

Steve Grove   A reckoning for tech’s work with news

Joshua Darr   The nationalization of political news will accelerate

Thomas Hanitzsch   The rise of tribal journalism

Dan Shanoff   Bet on sports gambling

Heba Aly   The rise of international nonprofit news

Jeremy Gilbert   AI finally becomes helpful

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

Seema Yasmin   We will create our own spaces

Julia Rubin   Meeting people where they are

Justin Kosslyn   Text hits a tipping point

Linda Solomon Wood   The year of the climate reporter

Callie Schweitzer   The rise of the conveners

Adam Thomas   In Europe, foundations invest in news

Carolina Guerrero   Spanish-language audio blows up

Francesco Zaffarano   Towards a rethinking of journalism on social media

Mario García   The rise of content “pilots”

Rick Berke   The year of loyalty

Kawandeep Virdee   Media wants to take care of you

Gideon Lichfield   Goodbye attention economy, we’ll miss you

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

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

Angèle Christin   Algorithms and the reflexive turn

Tim Carmody   Unlocking the commons

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

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

Kristen Muller   Local news fails — in a good way

Gabriel Snyder   Journalism doesn’t fit well in a funnel

Peter Bale   Venture capital runs out of patience

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

Julie Posetti   The year of the fight back

Kyra Darnton   A shift to depth in video

Alexandra Svokos   Good luck convincing us millennials to pay

Robert Hernandez   Racists and sexists get replaced

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

Cătălina Albeanu   Being responsible for what we don’t know

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   Podcasting battles East Coast bias

Rachel Davis Mersey   Local news goes minimalist

Elizabeth Jensen   Going where the Acela can’t take you

Joanne McNeil   Building a digital hospice

Ben Smith   The pendulum starts to swing back

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Readers are only getting started

Zuzanna Ziomecka   News leadership gets an overdue upgrade

Steve Henn   Smart speakers get smarter

Michael Rain   The year of the culturally relevant curator

Ernie Smith   The year we step back from the platform

Lauren Katz   Community becomes a core newsroom value

Nico Gendron   Reaching Generation Z beyond the coasts

M. Scott Havens   Time to swing for the fences

Almar Latour   Reported facts, weaponized in service of action

Elva Ramirez   News — but make it cinematic

Ståle Grut   A new dawn for 3D tech in journalism

Zizi Papacharissi   Old interface, say hello to the new interface