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 time to question core beliefs

“Are the things we have always assumed to be true, true? Do the things we have always assumed to work, work? Have they ever, and for whom?”

A single-use plastic water bottle bobbing in the ocean is not the climate crisis. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch isn’t either.

The climate crisis isn’t one self-contained thing, or even a cluster of many self-contained things; the climate crisis is the cumulative effect of decades of individual choices, corporate policies, technological innovations, and regulatory ducking and weaving — and all the overlapping between each.

We need to do something about the environmental waste we have created, without question. But focusing exclusively on ad hoc solutions — fishing that water bottle out, collecting accumulated plastic one scoop at a time and transferring it out for recycling — won’t address the reasons the waste got there in the first place. And so it will keep flowing.

Similarly, a single conspiracy theory, hoax, or racist attack is not the network crisis. The most toxic, violent space online isn’t either.

The network crisis is the cumulative effect of decades of individual choices, corporate policies, technological innovations, and regulatory ducking and weaving — and all the overlapping between each.

We need to do something about the digital waste we have created, without question. But focusing exclusively on ad hoc solutions — suspending the harassing account, deplatforming the white supremacist group and watching as its members scurry to some other, less-regulated site — won’t address the reasons the waste got there in the first place. And so it will keep flowing.

The most obvious difference between the climate crisis and the network crisis is where each unfolds. The most obvious similarity is the threats they each represent. The ideas we share, the information we process, and the communities we build might not be as tangible as the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land we cultivate — but when poisoned, they are equally perilous.

With so much at stake in 2020, more journalists (and more people generally) will be willing to approach networked spaces ecologically. They will do so heeding the words of botanist and member of the Potawatomi Nation Robin Wall Kimmerer, who notes in her poetic reflection Braiding Sweetgrass that we must reframe our relationship to the environment if we hope to make any lasting change. If we hope, more pressingly, to save ourselves and our children. Kimmerer is speaking of the natural world, but her argument is just as true of digital spaces: If we don’t begin to tell different stories about the digital landscape, if we don’t begin to shift our mindset to what Kimmerer describes as an ethics of responsibility, one that acknowledges the fundamental reciprocity between people, technologies, and institutions, we cannot begin to act differently.

Doing so won’t just be about embracing a new framework, one that situates all of us squarely within the environment as people whose tweets and articles and snark are fundamentally part of the story we’re covering. It will also mean challenging the assumptions that have been enshrined within journalism for generations and throughout Western thought for much longer than that.

The first is the two-pronged presumption that facts are enough to save us, and that, when confronted by hate and other malignancies, sunlight will disinfect them. The roots of these assumptions extend well beyond Louis Brandeis’ ubiquitous 1913 coinage. They are foundational to the political philosophies upon which the United States and other liberal democracies are built. Far beyond that, they reach back into the Enlightenment, whose entire project was to vanquish ignorance and superstition through the light of reason — light that was, itself, the inheritor of a centuries-old Judeo-Christian tradition (particularly the extreme dualism within Catholicism) linking virtue and truth to divine light. We are primed in the West to believe that light is, essentially, magic — whatever ails us, it will cure.

The cover engraving on Voltaire’s book on Newtonian philosophy; the figure emanating divine (scientific) light is Newton himself. Eighteen-century art often featured images of women, representing Truth, holding mirrors to best reflect that light and show the world as it really was (see Reichardt and Cohen 1998).

A host of related beliefs, each seemingly natural and necessary, have percolated out through this same Enlightenment-era root system. One is the belief that individual people are wholly autonomous, atomistic, independent subjects, encapsulated in the idea that it’s reporter’s job to publish the facts and the reader’s job to decide what to do with them. Always separate, always housed in our own discrete little bubbles. Another belief is that freedom is about remaining free from external restriction, including editorial restriction. (I can certainly attest to this presumption, given how many reporters have balked at the concept of strategic silence when covering hate groups.) Yet another is that the marketplace of ideas will filter all the news that’s fit to print, floating the best arguments and most relevant facts to the top of the pile. Rationality will prevail, as the bright light of truth shines down upon us.

A growing number of journalists in 2020 — and critics, and everyday folks — will begin asking a series of simple yet devastating questions in response to these assumptions. Are the things we have always assumed to be true, true? Do the things we have always assumed to work, work? Have they ever, and for whom?

As they ask these questions, these journalists and critics and everyday folks will consider, for instance, the failures of the marketplace of ideas — how it cannot even begin to function in the face of algorithmic amplification, media manipulation, and economic systems that reward and incentivize the loudest, most abusive, most misleading voices. (Shireen Mitchell speaks to this point here.) They’ll ask how free speech can be when those loudest, most abusive, most misleading voices are able to snatch the microphone away from everyone else. They’ll ask how reliable an ally the truth really is. And then they’ll ask what we do next, given the flipside of Kimmerer’s claim that all flourishing is mutual. It is — and so is all harm. So is all pollution.

What now, they will ask. What do we do? And there will be no answer, not yet.

As a counterbalance, there will be people who resist all this in 2020, who defend status quo action and status quo thinking. The marketplace of ideas works fine, they’ll say; the problem is that we don’t have enough facts. The freest possible speech and freest possible spread of information makes society stronger — incidentally, a position held by corporate executives and white supremacist hotbeds alike. In other words: But it’s served me well. But I am comfortable. But I am profiting.

For those who are well and comfortable and profiting, let’s walk together. Let’s explore the polluted shores. Let’s survey the burned-out houses and harvest the poisoned fruit and bear witness to the anguished bodies. Then look me in the eye. How well is your way going?

Whether or not the change we need is enacted — nothing short of a Green New Deal for network pollution will do — will depend entirely on the ratio between those who refuse to relinquish their ideological comforts and those are willing to reimagine their relationship to the landscape, for better and for worse, and who are prepared to work through the resulting anxiety and grief. What happens next is unknowable. But 2020 will help seal the outcome.

Whitney Phillips is an assistant professor of communication and rhetorical studies at Syracuse University.

A single-use plastic water bottle bobbing in the ocean is not the climate crisis. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch isn’t either.

The climate crisis isn’t one self-contained thing, or even a cluster of many self-contained things; the climate crisis is the cumulative effect of decades of individual choices, corporate policies, technological innovations, and regulatory ducking and weaving — and all the overlapping between each.

We need to do something about the environmental waste we have created, without question. But focusing exclusively on ad hoc solutions — fishing that water bottle out, collecting accumulated plastic one scoop at a time and transferring it out for recycling — won’t address the reasons the waste got there in the first place. And so it will keep flowing.

Similarly, a single conspiracy theory, hoax, or racist attack is not the network crisis. The most toxic, violent space online isn’t either.

The network crisis is the cumulative effect of decades of individual choices, corporate policies, technological innovations, and regulatory ducking and weaving — and all the overlapping between each.

We need to do something about the digital waste we have created, without question. But focusing exclusively on ad hoc solutions — suspending the harassing account, deplatforming the white supremacist group and watching as its members scurry to some other, less-regulated site — won’t address the reasons the waste got there in the first place. And so it will keep flowing.

The most obvious difference between the climate crisis and the network crisis is where each unfolds. The most obvious similarity is the threats they each represent. The ideas we share, the information we process, and the communities we build might not be as tangible as the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land we cultivate — but when poisoned, they are equally perilous.

With so much at stake in 2020, more journalists (and more people generally) will be willing to approach networked spaces ecologically. They will do so heeding the words of botanist and member of the Potawatomi Nation Robin Wall Kimmerer, who notes in her poetic reflection Braiding Sweetgrass that we must reframe our relationship to the environment if we hope to make any lasting change. If we hope, more pressingly, to save ourselves and our children. Kimmerer is speaking of the natural world, but her argument is just as true of digital spaces: If we don’t begin to tell different stories about the digital landscape, if we don’t begin to shift our mindset to what Kimmerer describes as an ethics of responsibility, one that acknowledges the fundamental reciprocity between people, technologies, and institutions, we cannot begin to act differently.

Doing so won’t just be about embracing a new framework, one that situates all of us squarely within the environment as people whose tweets and articles and snark are fundamentally part of the story we’re covering. It will also mean challenging the assumptions that have been enshrined within journalism for generations and throughout Western thought for much longer than that.

The first is the two-pronged presumption that facts are enough to save us, and that, when confronted by hate and other malignancies, sunlight will disinfect them. The roots of these assumptions extend well beyond Louis Brandeis’ ubiquitous 1913 coinage. They are foundational to the political philosophies upon which the United States and other liberal democracies are built. Far beyond that, they reach back into the Enlightenment, whose entire project was to vanquish ignorance and superstition through the light of reason — light that was, itself, the inheritor of a centuries-old Judeo-Christian tradition (particularly the extreme dualism within Catholicism) linking virtue and truth to divine light. We are primed in the West to believe that light is, essentially, magic — whatever ails us, it will cure.

The cover engraving on Voltaire’s book on Newtonian philosophy; the figure emanating divine (scientific) light is Newton himself. Eighteen-century art often featured images of women, representing Truth, holding mirrors to best reflect that light and show the world as it really was (see Reichardt and Cohen 1998).

A host of related beliefs, each seemingly natural and necessary, have percolated out through this same Enlightenment-era root system. One is the belief that individual people are wholly autonomous, atomistic, independent subjects, encapsulated in the idea that it’s reporter’s job to publish the facts and the reader’s job to decide what to do with them. Always separate, always housed in our own discrete little bubbles. Another belief is that freedom is about remaining free from external restriction, including editorial restriction. (I can certainly attest to this presumption, given how many reporters have balked at the concept of strategic silence when covering hate groups.) Yet another is that the marketplace of ideas will filter all the news that’s fit to print, floating the best arguments and most relevant facts to the top of the pile. Rationality will prevail, as the bright light of truth shines down upon us.

A growing number of journalists in 2020 — and critics, and everyday folks — will begin asking a series of simple yet devastating questions in response to these assumptions. Are the things we have always assumed to be true, true? Do the things we have always assumed to work, work? Have they ever, and for whom?

As they ask these questions, these journalists and critics and everyday folks will consider, for instance, the failures of the marketplace of ideas — how it cannot even begin to function in the face of algorithmic amplification, media manipulation, and economic systems that reward and incentivize the loudest, most abusive, most misleading voices. (Shireen Mitchell speaks to this point here.) They’ll ask how free speech can be when those loudest, most abusive, most misleading voices are able to snatch the microphone away from everyone else. They’ll ask how reliable an ally the truth really is. And then they’ll ask what we do next, given the flipside of Kimmerer’s claim that all flourishing is mutual. It is — and so is all harm. So is all pollution.

What now, they will ask. What do we do? And there will be no answer, not yet.

As a counterbalance, there will be people who resist all this in 2020, who defend status quo action and status quo thinking. The marketplace of ideas works fine, they’ll say; the problem is that we don’t have enough facts. The freest possible speech and freest possible spread of information makes society stronger — incidentally, a position held by corporate executives and white supremacist hotbeds alike. In other words: But it’s served me well. But I am comfortable. But I am profiting.

For those who are well and comfortable and profiting, let’s walk together. Let’s explore the polluted shores. Let’s survey the burned-out houses and harvest the poisoned fruit and bear witness to the anguished bodies. Then look me in the eye. How well is your way going?

Whether or not the change we need is enacted — nothing short of a Green New Deal for network pollution will do — will depend entirely on the ratio between those who refuse to relinquish their ideological comforts and those are willing to reimagine their relationship to the landscape, for better and for worse, and who are prepared to work through the resulting anxiety and grief. What happens next is unknowable. But 2020 will help seal the outcome.

Whitney Phillips is an assistant professor of communication and rhetorical studies at Syracuse University.

Millie Tran   Wicked

Josh Schwartz   Publishers move beyond the metered paywall

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

Anthony Nadler   Clash of Clans: Election Edition

Tanya Cordrey   Saying no to more good ideas

Alana Levinson   Brand-backed media gets another look

Heidi Tworek   The year of positive pushback

Jasmine McNealy   A call for context

Mario García   Think small (screen)

Felix Salmon   Spotify launches a news channel

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

Kathleen Searles   Pay more attention to attention

Bill Grueskin   Our ethics codes get an overhaul

Alice Antheaume   Trade “politics” for “power”

Jonas Kaiser   Russian bots are just today’s slacktivists

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

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

Sara K. Baranowski   A big year for little newspapers

Stefanie Murray   Charitable giving goes collaborative

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

Elizabeth Dunbar   Frank talk, and then action

Alexandra Borchardt   Get out of the office and talk to people

james Wahutu   Western journalists, learn from your African peers

Jeff Kofman   Speed through technology

Steve Henn   The dawning audio web

Annie Rudd   The expanded ambiguity of the news photograph

Catalina Albeanu   Rebuilding journalism, together

Sarah Alvarez   I’m ready for post-news

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

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting gets listener relationship management

Peter Bale   Lies get further normalized

Nushin Rashidian   Are platforms a bridge or a lifeline?

Monique Judge   The year to organize, unionize, and fight

Simon Galperin   Journalism becomes more democratic

Craig Newmark   Formalizing newsrooms’ battle against disinformation

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

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

Tonya Mosley   The neutrality vs. objectivity game ends

Masuma Ahuja   Slower, quieter, more measured and thoughtful

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

Hossein Derakhshan   AI can’t conjure up an Errol Morris

Cindy Royal   Prepare media students for skills, not job titles

Seth C. Lewis   20 questions for 2020

Emily Withrow   The year we kill the news article

Brenda P. Salinas   Treating MP3 files like text

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

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

Mariana Moura Santos   The future of journalism is collaborative

Heather Bryant   Some kinds of journalism aren’t worth saving

Michael W. Wagner   Increasingly fractured, but little bit deliberative

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

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

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

Joe Amditis   Collaborative journalism takes its rightful place at the table

Greg Emerson   News apps fall further behind

Ernie Smith   The death of the industry fad

Cristina Kim   Public media stops trying to serve “everybody”

Doris Truong   The year of radical salary transparency

Logan Jaffe   You don’t need fancy tools to listen

Nathalie Malinarich   Betting on loyalty

Rachel Schallom   The value of push alerts goes beyond open rates

Talia Stroud   The work of reconnecting starts November 4

Mira Lowe   The year of student-powered journalism

Logan Molyneux and Shannon McGregor   Think twice before turning to Twitter

Victor Pickard   We reclaim a public good

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting finally creates another mega-hit show

Brian Moritz   The end of “stick to sports”

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

Kristen Muller   The year we operationalize community engagement

Sue Robinson   Campaign coverage as test bed for engagement experiments

Kerri Hoffman   Opening closed systems

Don Day   Respect the non-paying audience

Barbara Gray   Join local libraries on the frontlines of civic engagement

Helen Havlak   Platforms shine a light on original reporting

Ben Werdmuller   Use the tools of journalism to save it

Meg Marco   Everything happens somewhere

Jeremy Olshan   All journalism should be service journalism

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

Meredith Artley   Stronger solidarity among news organizations

Dan Shanoff   Sports media enters the Bronny era

Sarah Marshall   The year to learn about news moments

Jakob Moll   A slow-moving tech backlash among young people

Candis Callison   Taking a cue from Indigenous journalists on climate change

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

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

Sarah Schmalbach   Journalist, quantify thyself

Adam Thomas   The silver bullet

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

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

Matthew Pressman   News consumers divide into haves and have-nots

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

Monica Drake   A renewed focus on misinformation

Joni Deutsch   Podcasting unsilences the silent

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

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

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

Tom Glaisyer   Journalism can emerge newly vibrant and powerful

Lauren Duca   The rise of the journalistic influencer

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

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

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

Alfred Hermida and Mary Lynn Young   The promise of nonprofit journalism

Sarah Stonbely   More people start caring about news inequality

Mike Caulfield   Native verification tools for the blue checkmark crowd

Fiona Spruill   The climate crisis gets the coverage it deserves

Beena Raghavendran   The year of the local engagement reporter

S. Mitra Kalita   The race to 2021

Julia B. Chan   We 👏 take 👏 breaks 👏

Jennifer Brandel   A love letter from the year 2073

Whitney Phillips   A time to question core beliefs

Rick Berke   Incoming fire from both left and right

Francesco Zaffarano   TikTok without generational prejudice

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

Sonali Prasad   Climate change storytelling gets multidimensional

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

John Keefe   Journalism gets hacked

Nikki Usher   All systems down

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

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

Tamar Charney   From broadcast to bespoke

Knight Foundation   Five generations of journalists, learning from each other

Imaeyen Ibanga   Let’s take it slow

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

Ståle Grut   OSINT journalism goes mainstream

Carl Bialik   Journalists will try running the whole shop

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

Pablo Boczkowski   The day after November 4

Geneva Overholser   Death to bothsidesism

Colleen Shalby   Journalists become media literacy teachers

Marie Gilot   This is fine

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

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