2
0
1
9

Video forensic reporting goes mainstream — and local

“The toolkit of social intelligence and listening devices is increasingly accessible for DIY video makers, lean local news departments, and international organizations in countries where press freedoms don’t exist.”

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a surge of video forensic reporting, packaged into groundbreaking storytelling from well-resourced international media outlets, including the stellar BBC reconstruction of a killing in Cameroon, and our Pulitzer-winning video documenting the murder of an Afghan woman falsely accused of burning the Koran. Then there’s the damning video that provides a visual takedown of Saudi’s complicit role in murdering Jamal Khashoggi.

Until now, these investigative and irrefutable visual takedowns were mainly produced by a few pioneering departments within major newsrooms, or by boutique forensic organizations like Bellingcat (which broke the Skripal spy story), Forensic Architecture, Human Rights Watch, Storyful, and Amnesty International. Despite a few of these big hits, the industry has faced several barriers to entry. There simply weren’t many people with the video forensic skillset; the tools were increasingly complex to use and the models for storytelling were not yet numerous. And many of these investigations focused on petty or nuanced cases — such as a granular takedown of the weapons used in a bombing in Yemen — and in turn they often failed to reach mainstream audiences or residents living in places where the crimes occurred.

Enter 2019, when the toolkit of social intelligence and listening devices — from Broadcastify to Investigator — is increasingly accessible for DIY video makers, lean local news departments, and international organizations in countries where press freedoms don’t exist. Visual investigations are suddenly a sexy and common topic at journalism conferences and among a new generation of tech-savvy forensic reporters who are graduating college. To be clear, these investigations are not easy, but they will fan out globally because they’re more affordable than on-the-ground reporting, safer (they can be done by exiled dissidents), and they have a cinematic quality that appeals to popular audiences. Indisputable visual evidence of heinous crimes is accountability at its best. Case in point: Killing Pavel, which documents the murder of Belarusian investigative journalist Pavel Sheremet, who died in a car explosion in Ukraine and who was a critic of authoritarian presidencies in Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine.

It was only a few years ago that video cameras were first installed into mobile phones, birthing a generation of eyewitness reporters and citizen journalists. Now dozens of digital tools exist for lay people (okay, those with a bit of patience) to comb police scanners, track shipping routes, monitor airplane runways, acquire airport CCTV feeds, verify Instagram video, geofence uploads from a time and place, and use audio and visual forensics to cross-check and confirm, just as a reporter would do on paper in the 1970s. In an era where impunity is an increasing norm, and human rights seem to be falling out of favor, video forensic journalism offers a dose of hope for its potential to go more mainstream and more local.

Adam B. Ellick is the director and executive producer of opinion video at The New York Times.

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

Adam Smith   Platforms will have to help rebuild trust in news

Julia Rubin   Meeting people where they are

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

Zizi Papacharissi   Old interface, say hello to the new interface

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

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

Catalina Albeanu   Being responsible for what we don’t know

Jim Friedlich   Meet Citizen Kane 2.0

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

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

Hearken   Pivot to people

Eric Ulken   The year you actually start to like your CMS

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

Mandy Velez   Putting the social back in social media

Greg Emerson   Power to the user

Moreno Cruz Osório   Damaged credibility and a new threat in Brazil

Soo Oh   Just showing our work isn’t enough

Nico Gendron   Reaching Generation Z beyond the coasts

Talia Stroud   Engaging people across lines of difference

Ariel Zirulnick   Participation gets professional

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

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting is media’s slow food movement

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

Almar Latour   Reported facts, weaponized in service of action

Craig Newmark   The end of “loudspeakers for liars”

Rishad Patel   A design system for responsible publishing

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

Andrew Ramsammy   The great re-pivot to audio

Ståle Grut   A new dawn for 3D tech in journalism

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

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

Bill Grueskin   Toward a symphony model for local news

Pablo Boczkowski   Reimagining the media for post-institutional times

Andrew Donohue   Voting rights becomes the new climate change

Ruth Palmer and Benjamin Toff   From news fatigue to news avoidance

Mike Caulfield   Ditch the media literacy cynicism and get to work

Kainaz Amaria   We consider who’s behind the camera

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

Carl Bialik   Fatigued news consumers will pay more for less news

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

Peter Bale   Venture capital runs out of patience

Nicholas Jackson   More transparency around newsroom decisions

Justin Kosslyn   Text hits a tipping point

Tim Carmody   Unlocking the commons

Nisha Chittal   The homepage makes a comeback

Ben Smith   The pendulum starts to swing back

Jonas Kaiser   Catching up with “Neuland”

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

Logan Molyneux   Seeing social media for what it is

Brian Moritz   The subscription-pocalypse is about to hit

Winny de Jong   Data journalism goes undercover

Carolina Guerrero   Spanish-language audio blows up

Lauren Katz   Community becomes a core newsroom value

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

Thomas Hanitzsch   The rise of tribal journalism

Don Day   Timewalls and other reader revenue experiments

Rebecca Searles   From silos to Swiss Army knife teams

Marie Shanahan   Newsrooms take the comments sections back from platforms

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

Ernie Smith   The year we step back from the platform

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

Tamar Charney   Seriously: What do you do for people?

Annie Rudd   A more intimate aesthetic of politics — on Insta

Sue Cross   Return of the water cooler

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

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

Nikki Usher   Three ways national media will further undermine trust

Mariana Moura Santos   From pageviews to impact

Jonathan Gill   Publishers build a common tech platform together

M. Scott Havens   Time to swing for the fences

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

Renan Borelli   Developing loyalty means developing your talent

Josh Schwartz   A pullback from platforms and a focus on product

Sarah Marshall   A return to destination journalism

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

Emma Carew Grovum   The year of the loyal reader

Errin Haines   Say it with me: Racism

Candis Callison   Learn from Indigenous journalists on covering climate change

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

Kawandeep Virdee   Media wants to take care of you

Libby Bawcombe   Haikus of the news

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

LaToya Drake   Listen up: New stories, new storytellers

John Biewen   Podcasts keep getting better

Colleen Shalby   Representation becomes more than a talking point

Mandy Jenkins   Fight the urge to run away from social media

Andrea Faye Hart   Doing less harm, not just more good

Steve Henn   Smart speakers get smarter

Elite Truong   What do we owe the next generation?

Salem Solomon   Correcting our corrections

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

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

Elizabeth Jensen   Going where the Acela can’t take you

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   Podcasting battles East Coast bias

Dan Shanoff   Bet on sports gambling

Alexandra Svokos   Good luck convincing us millennials to pay

Celeste LeCompte   Local news needs local conversation to survive

Christa Scharfenberg and Vickie Baranetsky   The year of the lawsuit

Adam Thomas   In Europe, foundations invest in news

Cory Bergman   Journalism as a technology service

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

Johannes Klingebiel   We all grow hooves

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Readers are only getting started

Joel Konopo   Influencers become the new liberated power in Africa

Joshua Darr   The nationalization of political news will accelerate

Jared Newman   AI-generated fakes launch a software arms race

Kelsey Proud   Journalism becomes the escape

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

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

Elizabeth Dunbar   Local reporters reflect on what’s not important

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

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

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

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

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

Meredith Artley   Huge demand for…anything but politics

Callie Schweitzer   The rise of the conveners

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

Borja Bergareche Sainz de los Terreros   Entering a more balanced era

Francesco Zaffarano   Towards a rethinking of journalism on social media

Knight Foundation   A year of local collaboration

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

Monique Judge   Committing to the truth, calling out lies

Taylor Lorenz   Personal branding is more powerful than ever

Becca Aaronson   From bridge roles to product thinkers

Darryl Holliday   Let’s talk about power (yours)

Kate Myers   Journalism continues to be bad for democracy

Angèle Christin   Algorithms and the reflexive turn

Shannon McGregor   More bogus embedded tweets in our stories

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

Jeff Chin   We detox from Chartbeat

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

Stefanie Murray   Local news wakes up and starts collaborating

Alberto Cairo   A year of uncertainty and confidence

Simon Rogers   Data journalism becomes a global field

Sue Robinson   Reporters go on the offensive

Matt Skibinski   Quality and reliability are the new currencies for publishers

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

Rachel Glickhouse   Newsrooms will prioritize audience needs

Sarah Alvarez   Simplify and redistribute

Patrick Butler   Measuring impact will increase audience trust

Linda Solomon Wood   The year of the climate reporter

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

Mat Yurow   Content competition from the tech companies

Ben Werdmuller   The platform tide is turning

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

Gideon Lichfield   Goodbye attention economy, we’ll miss you

John Saroff   The pivot to reader revenue’s unintended consequences

Kristen Muller   Local news fails — in a good way

Rachel Davis Mersey   Local news goes minimalist

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

Joe Amditis   Give the audience a seat at the table

P. Kim Bui   The misfits become the bosses

Seema Yasmin   We will create our own spaces

Francesco Marconi   The year of iterative journalism

Bill Adair   Another year fighting Trump’s falsehoods

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

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

Nathalie Malinarich   Video — yes, video

Peter Cunliffe-Jones   The focus of misinformation debates shifts south

Zuzanna Ziomecka   News leadership gets an overdue upgrade

Rubina Madan Fillion   Fighting the reality of deepfakes

Elva Ramirez   News — but make it cinematic

Masuma Ahuja   Make foreign coverage less foreign

Heather Bryant   We are responsible for how we use our power

Eric Nuzum   The year of the DIY podcast network

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

Kyra Darnton   A shift to depth in video

Laura E. Davis   More access, but not that kind

Jack Riley   Facebook refugees, from ad revenue to news habits

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

Geetika Rudra   The year of actionable (local) journalism

Dheerja Kaur   A focus on problems, not platforms

Renée Kaplan   Our future could lie within our own organizations

Alexis Lloyd & Matt Boggie   The year product leads media

Rick Berke   The year of loyalty

Joanne McNeil   Building a digital hospice

Mario García   The rise of content “pilots”

Michael Rain   The year of the culturally relevant curator

John Garrett   You can’t raise prices forever

Steve Grove   A reckoning for tech’s work with news

Reyhan Harmanci   Selling more stories to Hollywood

Matthew Pressman   The battle over objectivity intensifies

Shalabh Upadhyay   A culture clash on India’s growing Internet

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

Victor Pickard   We will finally confront systemic market failure

Julie Posetti   The year of the fight back

Charo Henríquez   Pivot to journalism

Jean Friedman Rudovsky   Cross-newsroom collaborations strengthen communities

Rodney Gibbs   A bright — and young — year for audio

Michael Grant   More newsrooms experiment their way to success

Cherian George   Fake news wins in Asia

Ole Reißmann   The rise of vertical storytelling

Robert Hernandez   Racists and sexists get replaced

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

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

Gabriel Snyder   Journalism doesn’t fit well in a funnel

Jesse Brown   Canada’s subsidy for news backfires

A.J. Bauer   The coming splintering of conservative media

Chase Davis   We can acknowledge what we don’t know

Dave Burdick   Seeing our blind spots

Jeremy Gilbert   AI finally becomes helpful

Heba Aly   The rise of international nonprofit news

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