2
0
1
9

The battle over objectivity intensifies

“Many of the nation’s most influential news outlets continue to apply standards of objectivity that were designed for more normal times. They turn presidential statements, even if patently false, into credulous headlines.”

Most people who spend their days thinking about or doing journalism have strong opinions about how to cover President Trump and his administration. Few of them seem to believe the answer is “objectively.” Objective reporting, the argument goes, simply wasn’t designed for a president who lies compulsively and shows a reckless disregard for democratic norms.

And yet many of the nation’s most influential news outlets continue to apply standards of objectivity that were designed for more normal times. They turn presidential statements, even if patently false, into credulous headlines. They respond earnestly to promises to abrogate the Constitution through executive action. They remind the audience that “both sides” engage in unsavory political behavior, even when the two sides’ actions are far from equivalent.

Each time this happens, there’s a furious reaction from journo-Twitter, and the offending news outlet often scrambles to make amends. For editors and reporters who remained wedded to pre-Trump ideas of objectivity, these dustups must have a cumulative effect: Either you become a convert to the notion that normalizing Trump is a grave journalistic sin, or you become even more determined to fight those who would undermine a cherished principle (and with it, perhaps, the press’ remaining credibility).

In 2019, with the Mueller investigation potentially wrapping up, the Democrats empowered by their takeover of the House, and the next presidential election coming into view, the antipathy between objectivity’s proponents and detractors is likely to rise.

In many ways, this battle mirrors what was happening in American journalism 50 years ago. Faced with the Vietnam War and the Nixon administration’s onslaught on the press, many journalists believed it was time to drop objectivity in favor of a more honest, transparent approach to coverage. But that viewpoint never prevailed at the country’s leading newspapers and networks, who fought off the challenge to objectivity by the late 1970s.

Of course, newspapers and networks don’t hold the same sway today as they did in 1969. Still, I doubt 2019 will mark the death of objectivity in American journalism. The real test will come in 2021 or 2025, when Trump is out office and journalists must decide whether it’s still an option to “normalize” the president.

Matthew Pressman is an assistant professor of journalism at Seton Hall University.

Nathalie Malinarich   Video — yes, video

Brian Moritz   The subscription-pocalypse is about to hit

Jim Friedlich   Meet Citizen Kane 2.0

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

Simon Rogers   Data journalism becomes a global field

Renan Borelli   Developing loyalty means developing your talent

Hearken   Pivot to people

Sarah Alvarez   Simplify and redistribute

Alberto Cairo   A year of uncertainty and confidence

Justin Kosslyn   Text hits a tipping point

Julie Posetti   The year of the fight back

Seema Yasmin   We will create our own spaces

Rubina Madan Fillion   Fighting the reality of deepfakes

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

Bill Grueskin   Toward a symphony model for local news

Mario García   The rise of content “pilots”

Mike Caulfield   Ditch the media literacy cynicism and get to work

Ole Reißmann   The rise of vertical storytelling

Francesco Zaffarano   Towards a rethinking of journalism on social media

Bill Adair   Another year fighting Trump’s falsehoods

Christa Scharfenberg and Vickie Baranetsky   The year of the lawsuit

Knight Foundation   A year of local collaboration

Tim Carmody   Unlocking the commons

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

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

Francesco Marconi   The year of iterative journalism

Robert Hernandez   Racists and sexists get replaced

Mandy Jenkins   Fight the urge to run away from social media

Jean Friedman Rudovsky   Cross-newsroom collaborations strengthen communities

Gideon Lichfield   Goodbye attention economy, we’ll miss you

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting is media’s slow food movement

Steve Henn   Smart speakers get smarter

Peter Cunliffe-Jones   The focus of misinformation debates shifts south

Almar Latour   Reported facts, weaponized in service of action

Steve Grove   A reckoning for tech’s work with news

Angèle Christin   Algorithms and the reflexive turn

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

LaToya Drake   Listen up: New stories, new storytellers

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

Becca Aaronson   From bridge roles to product thinkers

Dan Shanoff   Bet on sports gambling

Sue Cross   Return of the water cooler

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

Logan Molyneux   Seeing social media for what it is

Salem Solomon   Correcting our corrections

Chase Davis   We can acknowledge what we don’t know

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

Heather Bryant   We are responsible for how we use our power

Jack Riley   Facebook refugees, from ad revenue to news habits

Ben Werdmuller   The platform tide is turning

Rachel Glickhouse   Newsrooms will prioritize audience needs

Greg Emerson   Power to the user

M. Scott Havens   Time to swing for the fences

A.J. Bauer   The coming splintering of conservative media

Elite Truong   What do we owe the next generation?

Jesse Brown   Canada’s subsidy for news backfires

Nisha Chittal   The homepage makes a comeback

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

Ruth Palmer and Benjamin Toff   From news fatigue to news avoidance

Jeff Chin   We detox from Chartbeat

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

Zizi Papacharissi   Old interface, say hello to the new interface

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

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

Renée Kaplan   Our future could lie within our own organizations

Alexis Lloyd & Matt Boggie   The year product leads media

Stefanie Murray   Local news wakes up and starts collaborating

Masuma Ahuja   Make foreign coverage less foreign

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

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

Linda Solomon Wood   The year of the climate reporter

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

Eric Nuzum   The year of the DIY podcast network

Kainaz Amaria   We consider who’s behind the camera

Libby Bawcombe   Haikus of the news

Colleen Shalby   Representation becomes more than a talking point

John Garrett   You can’t raise prices forever

P. Kim Bui   The misfits become the bosses

Joel Konopo   Influencers become the new liberated power in Africa

Ernie Smith   The year we step back from the platform

Charo Henríquez   Pivot to journalism

Elizabeth Dunbar   Local reporters reflect on what’s not important

Gabriel Snyder   Journalism doesn’t fit well in a funnel

Adam Smith   Platforms will have to help rebuild trust in news

Jared Newman   AI-generated fakes launch a software arms race

Andrew Ramsammy   The great re-pivot to audio

Michael Rain   The year of the culturally relevant curator

Soo Oh   Just showing our work isn’t enough

Jonathan Gill   Publishers build a common tech platform together

Elva Ramirez   News — but make it cinematic

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

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

Rodney Gibbs   A bright — and young — year for audio

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

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

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

John Biewen   Podcasts keep getting better

Ariel Zirulnick   Participation gets professional

Celeste LeCompte   Local news needs local conversation to survive

Alexandra Svokos   Good luck convincing us millennials to pay

Rick Berke   The year of loyalty

Elizabeth Jensen   Going where the Acela can’t take you

Rebecca Searles   From silos to Swiss Army knife teams

Tamar Charney   Seriously: What do you do for people?

Marie Shanahan   Newsrooms take the comments sections back from platforms

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

Michael Grant   More newsrooms experiment their way to success

Winny de Jong   Data journalism goes undercover

Nikki Usher   Three ways national media will further undermine trust

Rishad Patel   A design system for responsible publishing

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

Carolina Guerrero   Spanish-language audio blows up

Lauren Katz   Community becomes a core newsroom value

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Readers are only getting started

Reyhan Harmanci   Selling more stories to Hollywood

Talia Stroud   Engaging people across lines of difference

Catalina Albeanu   Being responsible for what we don’t know

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

Matt Skibinski   Quality and reliability are the new currencies for publishers

Adam Thomas   In Europe, foundations invest in news

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

Kelsey Proud   Journalism becomes the escape

Dheerja Kaur   A focus on problems, not platforms

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

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

Rachel Davis Mersey   Local news goes minimalist

Juleyka Lantigua   Podcasting battles East Coast bias

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

Julia Rubin   Meeting people where they are

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

Taylor Lorenz   Personal branding is more powerful than ever

Jeremy Gilbert   AI finally becomes helpful

Andrea Faye Hart   Doing less harm, not just more good

Carl Bialik   Fatigued news consumers will pay more for less news

Kate Myers   Journalism continues to be bad for democracy

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

Shannon McGregor   More bogus embedded tweets in our stories

Josh Schwartz   A pullback from platforms and a focus on product

Peter Bale   Venture capital runs out of patience

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

Laura E. Davis   More access, but not that kind

Candis Callison   Learn from Indigenous journalists on covering climate change

Kyra Darnton   A shift to depth in video

Jonas Kaiser   Catching up with “Neuland”

Cory Bergman   Journalism as a technology service

Sarah Marshall   A return to destination journalism

Heba Aly   The rise of international nonprofit news

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

Mariana Moura Santos   From pageviews to impact

Thomas Hanitzsch   The rise of tribal journalism

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

Emma Carew Grovum   The year of the loyal reader

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

Kristen Muller   Local news fails — in a good way

Nicholas Jackson   More transparency around newsroom decisions

Joanne McNeil   Building a digital hospice

Joe Amditis   Give the audience a seat at the table

John Saroff   The pivot to reader revenue’s unintended consequences

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

Victor Pickard   We will finally confront systemic market failure

Don Day   Timewalls and other reader revenue experiments

Joshua P. Darr   The nationalization of political news will accelerate

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

Shalabh Upadhyay   A culture clash on India’s growing Internet

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

Meredith Artley   Huge demand for…anything but politics

Callie Schweitzer   The rise of the conveners

Sue Robinson   Reporters go on the offensive

Mat Yurow   Content competition from the tech companies

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

Nico Gendron   Reaching Generation Z beyond the coasts

Zuzanna Ziomecka   News leadership gets an overdue upgrade

Johannes Klingebiel   We all grow hooves

Geetika Rudra   The year of actionable (local) journalism

Patrick Butler   Measuring impact will increase audience trust

Kawandeep Virdee   Media wants to take care of you

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

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

Mandy Velez   Putting the social back in social media

Ståle Grut   A new dawn for 3D tech in journalism

Darryl Holliday   Let’s talk about power (yours)

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

Eric Ulken   The year you actually start to like your CMS

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

Borja Bergareche Sainz de los Terreros   Entering a more balanced era

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

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

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

Annie Rudd   A more intimate aesthetic of politics — on Insta

Pablo Boczkowski   Reimagining the media for post-institutional times

Ben Smith   The pendulum starts to swing back

Monique Judge   Committing to the truth, calling out lies

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

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

Dave Burdick   Seeing our blind spots

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

Matthew Pressman   The battle over objectivity intensifies

Andrew Donohue   Voting rights becomes the new climate change

Errin Haines   Say it with me: Racism

Craig Newmark   The end of “loudspeakers for liars”

Cherian George   Fake news wins in Asia

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

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

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