2
0
1
9

The gap between journalism and research is too wide

“Journalists had piles of Chartbeat data, but few models for understanding the social psychology of media audiences. They were stuck musing about things like filter bubbles, bots, and young people paying for news, when there is growing research evidence available with answers to these questions.”

In 2018, I attended two conferences — one academic, one industry — that revealed something important about the state of engagement between journalists and the researchers who study news.

In short: The gap between our two worlds is still far too large, and we’re both losing out. This is especially troubling at a time when together we could make scientific, policy, and public debates about journalism far better informed, evidence-based, and mutually beneficial.

The first conference that I attended was the annual convention of the International Communication Association, which has a Journalism Studies Division that is both the largest of its kind in the world and a leading venue for presenting the latest research on journalism. In the journalism studies track of the conference, there were 130 peer-reviewed papers that addressed a wide range of important issues for journalism — from questions about how, why, and to what effect journalists use social media to emerging concerns about misinformation and “post-truth” politics as well as enduring issues surrounding how news is framed on controversial topics.

The research, while quite good in many respects, had key limitations in the aggregate, as Rasmus Kleis Nielsen has explained. There was virtually nothing about the business of journalism — a conspicuous absence at a time of ongoing policy debates about how to sustain quality news production. There was much research attention paid to the internal workings of newsrooms and journalists, but not enough to the external dynamics of technology platforms, political actors, and audience relationships that play a growing role in shaping the ultimate outcomes of journalism. What’s more, there was an accessibility bias toward studying data that could be more easily gathered — which explains why Twitter gets more attention in media research than more popular platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.

The second conference that I attended was Newsgeist, an industry-focused, invitation-only gathering co-sponsored by Google and the Knight Foundation that brings together “practitioners and thinkers from the worlds of journalism, technology, and public policy who are re-imagining the future of news.” Newsgeist follows the “unconference” format, with sessions organized and selected on-site by attendees. Many (seemingly most) of the attendees were journalists, with some representatives from Google, Facebook, and the like. Among the dozens of sessions proposed, Mathew Ingram noted, “there were a number of suggestions that boiled down to ‘What Should Facebook Do?’ In other words, what should Facebook do for journalism?”

In essence, if some journalism researchers were failing to address the power of Facebook and platforms more broadly, journalists themselves were keenly aware of the threat — and yet it also became obvious to me, in session after session, that journalists had too little research-based evidence on which to make key decisions about the future. Journalists had piles of Chartbeat data, but few models for understanding the social psychology of media audiences. They were stuck musing about things like filter bubbles, bots, and young people paying for news, when there is growing research evidence available with answers to these questions.

We could do better research and better journalism if we better engaged with one another. Some of that could happen through better representation at each other’s conferences, but much of it could occur in simpler and less expensive ways — like calling out the culture of indifference and defensiveness that too often gets between us, and simply reaching out to share ideas with one another.

A journalism studies field that is more attuned to the central political, technological, and economic questions that press upon journalism — and a news industry willing to partner with scholars and learn from their research — should be a long-range goal for us all. It won’t be resolved in a year, or even several, but in 2019 we can at least give it a shot.

Seth C. Lewis is the Shirley Papé Chair in Emerging Media in the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon.

Cherian George   Fake news wins in Asia

Jack Riley   Facebook refugees, from ad revenue to news habits

Kyra Darnton   A shift to depth in video

Lauren Katz   Community becomes a core newsroom value

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

Celeste LeCompte   Local news needs local conversation to survive

Eric Ulken   The year you actually start to like your CMS

Callie Schweitzer   The rise of the conveners

Winny de Jong   Data journalism goes undercover

Tim Carmody   Unlocking the commons

Francesco Zaffarano   Towards a rethinking of journalism on social media

Joel Konopo   Influencers become the new liberated power in Africa

Andrew Ramsammy   The great re-pivot to audio

Stefanie Murray   Local news wakes up and starts collaborating

Ariel Zirulnick   Participation gets professional

Sue Cross   Return of the water cooler

LaToya Drake   Listen up: New stories, new storytellers

Charo Henríquez   Pivot to journalism

Mandy Jenkins   Fight the urge to run away from social media

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

Victor Pickard   We will finally confront systemic market failure

Sarah Alvarez   Simplify and redistribute

Sue Robinson   Reporters go on the offensive

Justin Kosslyn   Text hits a tipping point

Rick Berke   The year of loyalty

Heba Aly   The rise of international nonprofit news

Taylor Lorenz   Personal branding is more powerful than ever

Bill Grueskin   Toward a symphony model for local news

Josh Schwartz   A pullback from platforms and a focus on product

Tamar Charney   Seriously: What do you do for people?

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

Julie Posetti   The year of the fight back

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

Rubina Madan Fillion   Fighting the reality of deepfakes

Knight Foundation   A year of local collaboration

Kainaz Amaria   We consider who’s behind the camera

Bill Adair   Another year fighting Trump’s falsehoods

Zuzanna Ziomecka   News leadership gets an overdue upgrade

Alexandra Svokos   Good luck convincing us millennials to pay

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

John Biewen   Podcasts keep getting better

M. Scott Havens   Time to swing for the fences

Annie Rudd   A more intimate aesthetic of politics — on Insta

Elizabeth Dunbar   Local reporters reflect on what’s not important

Nicholas Jackson   More transparency around newsroom decisions

Peter Bale   Venture capital runs out of patience

Matt Skibinski   Quality and reliability are the new currencies for publishers

Rishad Patel   A design system for responsible publishing

Steve Grove   A reckoning for tech’s work with news

Joe Amditis   Give the audience a seat at the table

Kristen Muller   Local news fails — in a good way

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

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

Elva Ramirez   News — but make it cinematic

Masuma Ahuja   Make foreign coverage less foreign

Jean Friedman Rudovsky   Cross-newsroom collaborations strengthen communities

Jared Newman   AI-generated fakes launch a software arms race

John Saroff   The pivot to reader revenue’s unintended consequences

Nico Gendron   Reaching Generation Z beyond the coasts

Carl Bialik   Fatigued news consumers will pay more for less news

Talia Stroud   Engaging people across lines of difference

Geetika Rudra   The year of actionable (local) journalism

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Readers are only getting started

Becca Aaronson   From bridge roles to product thinkers

Gideon Lichfield   Goodbye attention economy, we’ll miss you

Chase Davis   We can acknowledge what we don’t know

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

Salem Solomon   Correcting our corrections

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

Jim Friedlich   Meet Citizen Kane 2.0

Rebecca Searles   From silos to Swiss Army knife teams

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

Darryl Holliday   Let’s talk about power (yours)

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

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting is media’s slow food movement

Angèle Christin   Algorithms and the reflexive turn

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

Dave Burdick   Seeing our blind spots

Mike Caulfield   Ditch the media literacy cynicism and get to work

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

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

Gabriel Snyder   Journalism doesn’t fit well in a funnel

Andrea Faye Hart   Doing less harm, not just more good

Dheerja Kaur   A focus on problems, not platforms

Monique Judge   Committing to the truth, calling out lies

Brian Moritz   The subscription-pocalypse is about to hit

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

Sarah Marshall   A return to destination journalism

Elizabeth Jensen   Going where the Acela can’t take you

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

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

Adam Smith   Platforms will have to help rebuild trust in news

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

Jonas Kaiser   Catching up with “Neuland”

Matthew Pressman   The battle over objectivity intensifies

Rachel Davis Mersey   Local news goes minimalist

Simon Rogers   Data journalism becomes a global field

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   Podcasting battles East Coast bias

Cory Bergman   Journalism as a technology service

Logan Molyneux   Seeing social media for what it is

Craig Newmark   The end of “loudspeakers for liars”

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

Reyhan Harmanci   Selling more stories to Hollywood

Mat Yurow   Content competition from the tech companies

Alberto Cairo   A year of uncertainty and confidence

Ruth Palmer and Benjamin Toff   From news fatigue to news avoidance

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

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

Michael Rain   The year of the culturally relevant curator

Hearken   Pivot to people

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

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

Joanne McNeil   Building a digital hospice

Renan Borelli   Developing loyalty means developing your talent

Rachel Glickhouse   Newsrooms will prioritize audience needs

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

Catalina Albeanu   Being responsible for what we don’t know

Errin Haines   Say it with me: Racism

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

Linda Solomon Wood   The year of the climate reporter

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

Don Day   Timewalls and other reader revenue experiments

Nathalie Malinarich   Video — yes, video

Mariana Moura Santos   From pageviews to impact

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

Rodney Gibbs   A bright — and young — year for audio

Kevin Douglas Grant   A year to embrace journalism as public service

Dan Shanoff   Bet on sports gambling

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

Carolina Guerrero   Spanish-language audio blows up

Marie Shanahan   Newsrooms take the comments sections back from platforms

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

Soo Oh   Just showing our work isn’t enough

Ernie Smith   The year we step back from the platform

Robert Hernandez   Racists and sexists get replaced

Mario García   The rise of content “pilots”

Jeff Chin   We detox from Chartbeat

Joshua Darr   The nationalization of political news will accelerate

Adam Thomas   In Europe, foundations invest in news

P. Kim Bui   The misfits become the bosses

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

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

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

Thomas Hanitzsch   The rise of tribal journalism

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

Elite Truong   What do we owe the next generation?

Christa Scharfenberg and Vickie Baranetsky   The year of the lawsuit

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

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

Kate Myers   Journalism continues to be bad for democracy

Shalabh Upadhyay   A culture clash on India’s growing Internet

Jonathan Gill   Publishers build a common tech platform together

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

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

Laura E. Davis   More access, but not that kind

Emma Carew Grovum   The year of the loyal reader

Peter Cunliffe-Jones   The focus of misinformation debates shifts south

Johannes Klingebiel   We all grow hooves

Ole Reißmann   The rise of vertical storytelling

Renée Kaplan   Our future could lie within our own organizations

Heather Bryant   We are responsible for how we use our power

Kelsey Proud   Journalism becomes the escape

Mandy Velez   Putting the social back in social media

Steve Henn   Smart speakers get smarter

Eric Nuzum   The year of the DIY podcast network

Nikki Usher   Three ways national media will further undermine trust

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

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

Ståle Grut   A new dawn for 3D tech in journalism

Pablo Boczkowski   Reimagining the media for post-institutional times

Andrew Donohue   Voting rights becomes the new climate change

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

Nisha Chittal   The homepage makes a comeback

John Garrett   You can’t raise prices forever

Ben Werdmuller   The platform tide is turning

Francesco Marconi   The year of iterative journalism

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

Zizi Papacharissi   Old interface, say hello to the new interface

Almar Latour   Reported facts, weaponized in service of action

Moreno Cruz Osório   Damaged credibility and a new threat in Brazil

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

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

Shannon McGregor   More bogus embedded tweets in our stories

Kawandeep Virdee   Media wants to take care of you

Greg Emerson   Power to the user

Colleen Shalby   Representation becomes more than a talking point

Borja Bergareche Sainz de los Terreros   Entering a more balanced era

Meredith Artley   Huge demand for…anything but politics

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

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

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

Patrick Butler   Measuring impact will increase audience trust

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

Jeremy Gilbert   AI finally becomes helpful

Seema Yasmin   We will create our own spaces

Ben Smith   The pendulum starts to swing back

Libby Bawcombe   Haikus of the news

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

Alexis Lloyd & Matt Boggie   The year product leads media

Michael Grant   More newsrooms experiment their way to success

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

Julia Rubin   Meeting people where they are

Jesse Brown   Canada’s subsidy for news backfires

A.J. Bauer   The coming splintering of conservative media

Candis Callison   Learn from Indigenous journalists on covering climate change