20200
P
1
20100
R  E
2
2070
D   I   C
3
2050
T   I   O   N
4
2040
S   F   O   R   J
5
2030
O  U  R  N  A  L
6
2020
I  S  M  2  0  2  0
7

A big year for little newspapers

“We don’t have to rely on Facebook Groups or ticketed events to reach readers.”

The attention of the news industry, which has been focused in recent years on local journalism, will dial in even deeper in 2020, to small markets — newspapers with circulations of 50,000 or less that are often the only publications covering their communities. Challenges abound for organizations of all sizes, but small markets are uniquely positioned to combat them.

The temptation for journalists to work at national and regional news organizations is strong, but as the companies that own those organizations merge and identify efficiencies, the number of journalists in those newsrooms will continue to shrink. There were more than 3,000 media layoffs in 2019 and more will surely come in the new year. Smaller newspapers — especially those that are still independently owned — are becoming attractive places to work, and not just because of the job security many of them offer. They also boast unique opportunities for journalists looking to connect with their audience and serve a community.

Many small news organizations position journalists closer to their audience. We don’t have to rely on Facebook Groups or ticketed events to reach readers. Instead, we can find them in a local coffee shop, at the library, or even in our offices, looking to connect with us.

And for the most part, those readers trust us. Small-market newspapers aren’t seen as “the media,” but as a reliable source — sometimes the only source — of local information. Community journalists are trusted to tell stories, explain local government decisions and share what’s happening in the community. In many towns, they’re the only reporter at public meetings, and the local newspaper is the only outlet printing information about property tax increases, school policy changes, and the road project that’s going to disrupt traffic next summer. And, as studies have shown, without a local news outlet, the community suffers.

As important as this work is, many small-market newspapers struggle to recruit journalists. But as layoffs persist, and journalists at larger publications grow frustrated with the expectations and restrictions placed on them, they’ll go looking for change and find small towns where jobs are waiting for them. Whereas small newspapers have struggled in the past to find the money to train journalists or undertake special projects, grant funding is making that easier. Small organizations that come up with new projects — or work collaboratively with other small organizations — can receive grants to learn new skills, test ideas, and find ways around the roadblocks to growth and advancement. In many ways, smaller organizations are more nimble. New ideas can be tested — often for little or no cost — and tweaked as needed until the right formula clicks with the audience. No need to convince an entire organizational chart to get behind a new digital project. If you can find a way, you can try it.

The opportunities that exist at small newspapers don’t end with the newsroom. Many of these organizations are still independently owned, and as those owners reach retirement age, they’re looking for someone they can trust to take over the operation and keep it growing and serving the community. Why can’t it be the journalists in the newsroom? West Virginia University and the West Virginia Press Association have partnered to launch a new fellowship in 2020 that will train journalists to buy and run a successful small newspaper.

If you’re looking for jaw-droppingly beautiful animated interactives and far-reaching global investigations, stick with the big national organizations. But if you’re interested in high-impact local reporting that experiments with new formats and audience engagement, keep an eye on the small markets. 2020 will be the start of a new and exciting era for community news. It’s going to be a big year for the little guys.

The attention of the news industry, which has been focused in recent years on local journalism, will dial in even deeper in 2020, to small markets — newspapers with circulations of 50,000 or less that are often the only publications covering their communities. Challenges abound for organizations of all sizes, but small markets are uniquely positioned to combat them.

The temptation for journalists to work at national and regional news organizations is strong, but as the companies that own those organizations merge and identify efficiencies, the number of journalists in those newsrooms will continue to shrink. There were more than 3,000 media layoffs in 2019 and more will surely come in the new year. Smaller newspapers — especially those that are still independently owned — are becoming attractive places to work, and not just because of the job security many of them offer. They also boast unique opportunities for journalists looking to connect with their audience and serve a community.

Many small news organizations position journalists closer to their audience. We don’t have to rely on Facebook Groups or ticketed events to reach readers. Instead, we can find them in a local coffee shop, at the library, or even in our offices, looking to connect with us.

And for the most part, those readers trust us. Small-market newspapers aren’t seen as “the media,” but as a reliable source — sometimes the only source — of local information. Community journalists are trusted to tell stories, explain local government decisions and share what’s happening in the community. In many towns, they’re the only reporter at public meetings, and the local newspaper is the only outlet printing information about property tax increases, school policy changes, and the road project that’s going to disrupt traffic next summer. And, as studies have shown, without a local news outlet, the community suffers.

As important as this work is, many small-market newspapers struggle to recruit journalists. But as layoffs persist, and journalists at larger publications grow frustrated with the expectations and restrictions placed on them, they’ll go looking for change and find small towns where jobs are waiting for them. Whereas small newspapers have struggled in the past to find the money to train journalists or undertake special projects, grant funding is making that easier. Small organizations that come up with new projects — or work collaboratively with other small organizations — can receive grants to learn new skills, test ideas, and find ways around the roadblocks to growth and advancement. In many ways, smaller organizations are more nimble. New ideas can be tested — often for little or no cost — and tweaked as needed until the right formula clicks with the audience. No need to convince an entire organizational chart to get behind a new digital project. If you can find a way, you can try it.

The opportunities that exist at small newspapers don’t end with the newsroom. Many of these organizations are still independently owned, and as those owners reach retirement age, they’re looking for someone they can trust to take over the operation and keep it growing and serving the community. Why can’t it be the journalists in the newsroom? West Virginia University and the West Virginia Press Association have partnered to launch a new fellowship in 2020 that will train journalists to buy and run a successful small newspaper.

If you’re looking for jaw-droppingly beautiful animated interactives and far-reaching global investigations, stick with the big national organizations. But if you’re interested in high-impact local reporting that experiments with new formats and audience engagement, keep an eye on the small markets. 2020 will be the start of a new and exciting era for community news. It’s going to be a big year for the little guys.

Knight Foundation   Five generations of journalists, learning from each other

John Keefe   Journalism gets hacked

Joshua Darr   All that campaign cash will make the media’s problems worse

Barbara Gray   Join local libraries on the frontlines of civic engagement

Don Day   Respect the non-paying audience

Seth C. Lewis   20 questions for 2020

james Wahutu   Western journalists, learn from your African peers

Cindy Royal   Prepare media students for skills, not job titles

Joe Amditis   Collaborative journalism takes its rightful place at the table

Sarah Stonbely   More people start caring about news inequality

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting finally creates another mega-hit show

John Garrett   It’s the best time in a century to start a local news organization

Nikki Usher   All systems down

Tanya Cordrey   Saying no to more good ideas

Nico Gendron   Make better products if you want to reach Gen Z

Sarah Alvarez   I’m ready for post-news

Brian Moritz   The end of “stick to sports”

Heidi Tworek   The year of positive pushback

Imaeyen Ibanga   Let’s take it slow

Jasmine McNealy   A call for context

Elizabeth Hansen and Jesse Holcomb   Local news initiatives run into a capital shortage

S. Mitra Kalita   The race to 2021

Peter Bale   Lies get further normalized

Helen Havlak   Platforms shine a light on original reporting

Jim Brady   We’ll complain about other people living in bubbles while ignoring our own

Ernie Smith   The death of the industry fad

Rachel Glickhouse   Journalists get left behind in the industry’s decline

Elizabeth Dunbar   Frank talk, and then action

Doris Truong   The year of radical salary transparency

Sue Robinson   Campaign coverage as test bed for engagement experiments

Irving Washington   Leadership isn’t something you learn on the job

Nushin Rashidian   Are platforms a bridge or a lifeline?

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   The business we want, not the business we had

Sonali Prasad   Climate change storytelling gets multidimensional

Raney Aronson-Rath   News deserts will proliferate — but so will new solutions

Carrie Brown-Smith   Engaged journalism: It’s finally happening

Steve Henn   The dawning audio web

Millie Tran   Wicked

Talia Stroud   The work of reconnecting starts November 4

Kathleen Searles   Pay more attention to attention

Jakob Moll   A slow-moving tech backlash among young people

Annie Rudd   The expanded ambiguity of the news photograph

Monique Judge   The year to organize, unionize, and fight

Laura E. Davis   Know the context your journalism is operating within

Rick Berke   Incoming fire from both left and right

Catalina Albeanu   Rebuilding journalism, together

Geneva Overholser   Death to bothsidesism

Marie Gilot   This is fine

Richard J. Tofel   A constraint of the reader-revenue model emerges

Cory Haik   We’re already consuming the future of news — now we have to produce it

Kerri Hoffman   Opening closed systems

Mario García   Think small (screen)

Hossein Derakhshan   AI can’t conjure up an Errol Morris

Sarah Schmalbach   Journalist, quantify thyself

Dannagal G. Young   Let’s disrupt the logic that’s driving Americans apart

Craig Newmark   Formalizing newsrooms’ battle against disinformation

An Xiao Mina   The Forum we wanted, the forum we got

Bill Adair   A Nobel Prize, a Brad Pitt film, and a Taylor Swift song

Madelyn Sanfilippo and Yafit Lev-Aretz   News coverage gets geo-fragmented

Fiona Spruill   The climate crisis gets the coverage it deserves

Joanne McNeil   A return to blogs (finally? sort of?)

Logan Jaffe   You don’t need fancy tools to listen

Simon Galperin   Journalism becomes more democratic

Dan Shanoff   Sports media enters the Bronny era

Logan Molyneux and Shannon McGregor   Think twice before turning to Twitter

Zizi Papacharissi   A president leads, the press follows, reality fades

Colleen Shalby   Journalists become media literacy teachers

Cristina Kim   Public media stops trying to serve “everybody”

Felix Salmon   Spotify launches a news channel

Brenda P. Salinas   Treating MP3 files like text

Ben Werdmuller   Use the tools of journalism to save it

Mike Caulfield   Native verification tools for the blue checkmark crowd

Emily Withrow   The year we kill the news article

Matt DeRienzo   Local broadcasters begin to fill the gaps left by newspapers

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   A changing industry amps up podcasters’ ambitions

Alexandra Borchardt   Get out of the office and talk to people

Masuma Ahuja   Slower, quieter, more measured and thoughtful

Joni Deutsch   Podcasting unsilences the silent

Jeremy Gilbert and Jarrod Dicker   A call for collaboration between storytelling and tech

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting gets listener relationship management

Linda Solomon Wood   Everyone in your organization, moving toward a common goal

Jeff Kofman   Speed through technology

Mary Walter-Brown and Tristan Loper   Power to the people (on your audience team)

Jennifer Brandel   A love letter from the year 2073

Bill Grueskin   Our ethics codes get an overhaul

Ståle Grut   OSINT journalism goes mainstream

Victor Pickard   We reclaim a public good

Tamar Charney   From broadcast to bespoke

Kristen Muller   The year we operationalize community engagement

Rachel Davis Mersey   The business of local TV news will enter its downward slide

Whitney Phillips   A time to question core beliefs

A.J. Bauer   A fork in the road for conservative media

Lucas Graves   A smarter conversation about how (and why) fact-checking matters

Matthew Pressman   News consumers divide into haves and have-nots

Francesco Zaffarano   TikTok without generational prejudice

Kourtney Bitterly   Transparency isn’t just a desire, it’s an expectation

Monica Drake   A renewed focus on misinformation

Alfred Hermida and Mary Lynn Young   The promise of nonprofit journalism

Josh Schwartz   Publishers move beyond the metered paywall

Jeremy Olshan   All journalism should be service journalism

Nicholas Jackson   What’s left of local gets comfortable with reader support

Michael W. Wagner   Increasingly fractured, but little bit deliberative

Rachel Schallom   The value of push alerts goes beyond open rates

Heather Bryant   Some kinds of journalism aren’t worth saving

Jonas Kaiser   Russian bots are just today’s slacktivists

Candis Callison   Taking a cue from Indigenous journalists on climate change

Moreno Cruz Osório   In Brazil, collaboration in a time of state attacks

Kevin D. Grant   The free press stands against authoritarians’ attacks on truth

Alana Levinson   Brand-backed media gets another look

Adam Thomas   The silver bullet

Christa Scharfenberg   It’s time to make journalism a field that supports and respects women

Greg Emerson   News apps fall further behind

Carl Bialik   Journalists will try running the whole shop

Tonya Mosley   The neutrality vs. objectivity game ends

Margarita Noriega   The platforms try to figure out what to do with single-subject newsrooms

Meg Marco   Everything happens somewhere

Pablo Boczkowski   The day after November 4

Tom Glaisyer   Journalism can emerge newly vibrant and powerful

Mira Lowe   The year of student-powered journalism

Mariana Moura Santos   The future of journalism is collaborative

Sara K. Baranowski   A big year for little newspapers

Errin Haines   Race and gender aren’t a 2020 story — they’re the story

Beena Raghavendran   The year of the local engagement reporter

Sarah Marshall   The year to learn about news moments

M. Scott Havens   First-party data becomes media’s most important currency

Lauren Duca   The rise of the journalistic influencer

Meredith Artley   Stronger solidarity among news organizations

Anthony Nadler   Clash of Clans: Election Edition

L. Gordon Crovitz   Fighting misinformation requires journalism, not secret algorithms

Stefanie Murray   Charitable giving goes collaborative

Alice Antheaume   Trade “politics” for “power”

Julia B. Chan   We 👏 take 👏 breaks 👏

Nathalie Malinarich   Betting on loyalty