2
0
1
9

We can acknowledge what we don’t know

“When it comes to the big questions in local news maybe the safer bet is to admit that no matter how venerable our institutions or talented our people, none of us has the answers”

First let’s acknowledge up-front that when it comes to “saving” local news, none of us has any clue what we’re doing.

Not me. Not you. Not the boss with the biggest title. Or that slick presenter you saw at South By. Or the person who made the savvy investment, or spot-on prediction, or devastating tweet, that somehow convinced the rest of us they’re a genius.

If someone had the answer, I’d be out in the workshop chiseling their bust into marble. But they don’t. At best, we’re making educated guesses. At worst, we’re shooting in the dark.

Sounds obvious, I hope. Like blue sky and green grass. But knowing is different from believing, and I don’t think most of us yet truly feel this in our bones. Because if we did, I think we’d be be doing things a lot differently.

A year ago, I was lucky to be given an opportunity to take a job at my hometown newspaper, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, after spending several years at The New York Times, where I managed teams working at the intersection of news and technology.

Those years in New York were invaluable for many reasons, but one was watching up close as The Times undertook some thoughtful (and at times very public) soul-searching about how to reboot itself for the digital age.

At least from my vantage point, that process was empathetic, vulnerable and evinced a remarkable self awareness. It identified clear weaknesses, questioned fundamental assumptions and killed sacred cows. It helped promote a cultural shift that encouraged seeking and testing over knowing all the answers — no small thing for a dignified institution whose traditions literally predate the invention of the telephone.

Directly or indirectly, I think many of the things we now celebrate about the place are at least in part a product of that shift: product and technology working alongside reporters and editors; new initiatives like the briefings; making reporters more human through the Reader Center; even headline shruggies.

Getting back into the metro news game for the first time in almost a decade, I’ve been thinking a lot about how local newsrooms can tap into that same spirit of continuous improvement and discovery. And the word I keep coming back to is humility.

Deep down in our lizard brains, I think a lot of us local newsroom leaders still think we know the way out of this mess. Launch the right product. Hire the right person. License the right tools. “Readers want this.” “Readers don’t want that.” Or just stick to our routines, do good journalism, and the rest will sort itself out.

But when it comes to the big questions in local news — sustaining public service journalism, driving subscriptions, creating a strong digital report — maybe the safer bet is to admit that no matter how venerable our institutions or talented our people, none of us has the answers.

If we believe that — and I mean really believe it — we can change the way we approach the problem:

We can encourage ideas to come from the bottom up, not the top down, and take deliberate steps (however small) to try them.

We can develop systems to rigorously test those ideas. Kill the ones that don’t work. Scale up the ones that do.

We can preach forgiveness, not permission, and create venues to celebrate and learn from our failures.

We can employ user testing and research to see how real people are interacting with our journalism.

We can acknowledge that just because we’re news experts doesn’t mean we’re product experts. (And while we’re at it, we can stop leaving business to the business side).

We can hire and promote from nontraditional places, to diversify the voices that make decisions and empower change agents who can make us uncomfortable.

We can show vulnerability to our readers and engage them with authenticity, rather than speaking to them from a remove.

We can build systems to counter our most unproductive impulses: our struggles to think long-term, our bias toward inertia, the incentives that discourage smart people from speaking up.

Ironically, by knowing what we don’t know, the better we can maximize the chance we’ll find the answers we’re looking for.

It’s my hope — though not necessarily my prediction — is that 2019 will be the year more of us move from simply understanding that to truly believing it.

Chase Davis is a senior digital editor at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis.

Andrew Donohue   Voting rights becomes the new climate change

Jean Friedman Rudovsky   Cross-newsroom collaborations strengthen communities

Nicholas Jackson   More transparency around newsroom decisions

Jesse Brown   Canada’s subsidy for news backfires

M. Scott Havens   Time to swing for the fences

Kate Myers   Journalism continues to be bad for democracy

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

Sue Cross   Return of the water cooler

Kyra Darnton   A shift to depth in video

Jim Friedlich   Meet Citizen Kane 2.0

Brian Moritz   The subscription-pocalypse is about to hit

Jonas Kaiser   Catching up with “Neuland”

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

Charo Henríquez   Pivot to journalism

Masuma Ahuja   Make foreign coverage less foreign

Moreno Cruz Osório   Damaged credibility and a new threat in Brazil

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

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

Nikki Usher   Three ways national media will further undermine trust

Sarah Alvarez   Simplify and redistribute

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

Shannon McGregor   More bogus embedded tweets in our stories

Geetika Rudra   The year of actionable (local) journalism

Rebecca Searles   From silos to Swiss Army knife teams

Kristen Muller   Local news fails — in a good way

Jeremy Gilbert   AI finally becomes helpful

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

Robert Hernandez   Racists and sexists get replaced

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

Callie Schweitzer   The rise of the conveners

Renan Borelli   Developing loyalty means developing your talent

Thomas Hanitzsch   The rise of tribal journalism

Sarah Marshall   A return to destination journalism

Bill Grueskin   Toward a symphony model for local news

Ernie Smith   The year we step back from the platform

Andrea Faye Hart   Doing less harm, not just more good

P. Kim Bui   The misfits become the bosses

Meredith Artley   Huge demand for…anything but politics

Adam Smith   Platforms will have to help rebuild trust in news

Rishad Patel   A design system for responsible publishing

Alexandra Svokos   Good luck convincing us millennials to pay

Renée Kaplan   Our future could lie within our own organizations

Soo Oh   Just showing our work isn’t enough

Kelsey Proud   Journalism becomes the escape

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

Mariana Moura Santos   From pageviews to impact

Kainaz Amaria   We consider who’s behind the camera

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

Cherian George   Fake news wins in Asia

Tamar Charney   Seriously: What do you do for people?

John Saroff   The pivot to reader revenue’s unintended consequences

Cory Bergman   Journalism as a technology service

Victor Pickard   We will finally confront systemic market failure

Carl Bialik   Fatigued news consumers will pay more for less news

Heather Bryant   We are responsible for how we use our power

Peter Cunliffe-Jones   The focus of misinformation debates shifts south

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting is media’s slow food movement

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

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

Gabriel Snyder   Journalism doesn’t fit well in a funnel

Matthew Pressman   The battle over objectivity intensifies

Monique Judge   Committing to the truth, calling out lies

Errin Haines   Say it with me: Racism

John Garrett   You can’t raise prices forever

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

Elizabeth Dunbar   Local reporters reflect on what’s not important

Rick Berke   The year of loyalty

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

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

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

Linda Solomon Wood   The year of the climate reporter

Joe Amditis   Give the audience a seat at the table

Kawandeep Virdee   Media wants to take care of you

Marie Shanahan   Newsrooms take the comments sections back from platforms

Jonathan Gill   Publishers build a common tech platform together

Winny de Jong   Data journalism goes undercover

Don Day   Timewalls and other reader revenue experiments

Julia Rubin   Meeting people where they are

Jack Riley   Facebook refugees, from ad revenue to news habits

Catalina Albeanu   Being responsible for what we don’t know

J. Siguru Wahutu   Think 2018 was bad? Wait until you see 2019

Lauren Katz   Community becomes a core newsroom value

Taylor Lorenz   Personal branding is more powerful than ever

Johannes Klingebiel   We all grow hooves

Seema Yasmin   We will create our own spaces

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

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

Jeff Chin   We detox from Chartbeat

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

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

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

Hearken   Pivot to people

Colleen Shalby   Representation becomes more than a talking point

Adam Thomas   In Europe, foundations invest in news

Peter Bale   Venture capital runs out of patience

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

Rachel Davis Mersey   Local news goes minimalist

Pablo Boczkowski   Reimagining the media for post-institutional times

Juleyka Lantigua   Podcasting battles East Coast bias

Ståle Grut   A new dawn for 3D tech in journalism

Tim Carmody   Unlocking the commons

Emma Carew Grovum   The year of the loyal reader

Rachel Glickhouse   Newsrooms will prioritize audience needs

Mandy Jenkins   Fight the urge to run away from social media

Ruth Palmer and Benjamin Toff   From news fatigue to news avoidance

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

Craig Newmark   The end of “loudspeakers for liars”

Borja Bergareche Sainz de los Terreros   Entering a more balanced era

Gideon Lichfield   Goodbye attention economy, we’ll miss you

Zuzanna Ziomecka   News leadership gets an overdue upgrade

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

Joshua P. Darr   The nationalization of political news will accelerate

Josh Schwartz   A pullback from platforms and a focus on product

A.J. Bauer   The coming splintering of conservative media

Eric Ulken   The year you actually start to like your CMS

Elite Truong   What do we owe the next generation?

Mandy Velez   Putting the social back in social media

Mario García   The rise of content “pilots”

Francesco Zaffarano   Towards a rethinking of journalism on social media

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

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

Talia Stroud   Engaging people across lines of difference

Jared Newman   AI-generated fakes launch a software arms race

Sue Robinson   Reporters go on the offensive

Dave Burdick   Seeing our blind spots

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

Rubina Madan Fillion   Fighting the reality of deepfakes

Joanne McNeil   Building a digital hospice

Heba Aly   The rise of international nonprofit news

Salem Solomon   Correcting our corrections

Dan Shanoff   Bet on sports gambling

Christa Scharfenberg and Vickie Baranetsky   The year of the lawsuit

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

Angèle Christin   Algorithms and the reflexive turn

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

Reyhan Harmanci   Selling more stories to Hollywood

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

Stefanie Murray   Local news wakes up and starts collaborating

Francesco Marconi   The year of iterative journalism

John Biewen   Podcasts keep getting better

Ole Reißmann   The rise of vertical storytelling

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

Nisha Chittal   The homepage makes a comeback

Greg Emerson   Power to the user

Bill Adair   Another year fighting Trump’s falsehoods

Rodney Gibbs   A bright — and young — year for audio

Michael Grant   More newsrooms experiment their way to success

Ariel Zirulnick   Participation gets professional

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

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

Libby Bawcombe   Haikus of the news

Simon Rogers   Data journalism becomes a global field

Logan Molyneux   Seeing social media for what it is

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

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

Andrew Ramsammy   The great re-pivot to audio

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

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

Annie Rudd   A more intimate aesthetic of politics — on Insta

Laura E. Davis   More access, but not that kind

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

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

Steve Grove   A reckoning for tech’s work with news

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

Elva Ramirez   News — but make it cinematic

Becca Aaronson   From bridge roles to product thinkers

Eric Nuzum   The year of the DIY podcast network

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Readers are only getting started

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

Joel Konopo   Influencers become the new liberated power in Africa

Alberto Cairo   A year of uncertainty and confidence

Mike Caulfield   Ditch the media literacy cynicism and get to work

Dheerja Kaur   A focus on problems, not platforms

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

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

Almar Latour   Reported facts, weaponized in service of action

Matt Skibinski   Quality and reliability are the new currencies for publishers

Alexis Lloyd & Matt Boggie   The year product leads media

Elizabeth Jensen   Going where the Acela can’t take you

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

Zizi Papacharissi   Old interface, say hello to the new interface

Michael Rain   The year of the culturally relevant curator

Ben Smith   The pendulum starts to swing back

Nathalie Malinarich   Video — yes, video

Celeste LeCompte   Local news needs local conversation to survive

Justin Kosslyn   Text hits a tipping point

Steve Henn   Smart speakers get smarter

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

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

Carolina Guerrero   Spanish-language audio blows up

Julie Posetti   The year of the fight back

Candis Callison   Learn from Indigenous journalists on covering climate change

Ben Werdmuller   The platform tide is turning

Knight Foundation   A year of local collaboration

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

Mat Yurow   Content competition from the tech companies

Shalabh Upadhyay   A culture clash on India’s growing Internet

Darryl Holliday   Let’s talk about power (yours)

LaToya Drake   Listen up: New stories, new storytellers

Chase Davis   We can acknowledge what we don’t know

Nico Gendron   Reaching Generation Z beyond the coasts

Patrick Butler   Measuring impact will increase audience trust

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

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

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