20200
P
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20100
R  E
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2070
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2020
I  S  M  2  0  2  0
7

Journalism can emerge newly vibrant and powerful

“Once a dirty word, collaboration is now openly embraced by news outlets where it provides value.”

This moment is the epitome of uncertainty. Like many such moments of transition — when a phase change is possible — the political and media environment is highly energized, and it’s difficult if not impossible to discern exactly what the future holds. Many of us see mixed signals, where hopes for a rebirth of journalism exist side by side with seemingly unsurmountable challenges.

The context into which journalists will publish their journalism in the United States in 2020 will be extremely challenging. The truths they seek to impart to the public will be swept into a roiling ocean of information on social media platforms conducive to propaganda and falsehoods, polluted and disrupted by others seeking partisan advantage through fair means and foul.

Journalists will face a vicious cycle. Public critiques of accurate news that don’t fit audience members’ political views run headlong into politicians who exacerbate distrust by leaning into conspiracy theories and ignoring facts. Yet reporters’ work is ever more important. Their stories must truly hold the powerful accountable — whether monopolistic companies or politicians inclined towards autocracy.

That said, nothing is set; moments of transition are pregnant with possibility. Outcomes we may fear — where journalism is overwhelmed — are no less possible than those where journalism emerges newly vibrant and powerful.

The groundwork is being laid. The journalists of 2020 are newly prepared. They’re exploring approaches that involve and energize readers and ensure the topics they cover reflect reader priorities. The engaged elections movement — which reorients election coverage around the curiosity and concerns of communities — is marking the way.

Curiously, while the economic weakness of commercial outlets is undesirable, it allows the fast-growing nonprofit news sector to increasingly reflect the makeup of the American public. Projects such as the Racial Equity in Journalism Fund — alongside a renewed commitment to equity and inclusion in newsrooms — could transform the field.

Once a dirty word, collaboration is now openly embraced by news outlets where it provides value. Electionland in 2016 and 2018 involved many. State-based efforts such as Votingbloc in New Jersey will likely be replicated across other states. First Draft News, which seeks to address misinformation head on, is at its core a collaboration. Initially global, the project is now forging new relationships at the local level in the United States. Many other collaborations are being documented by the Center for Cooperative Media.

Younger journalists are ever more ready to leverage capabilities that marry data, audio, and video, and they are keen to take on the challenge of truth-telling.

It’s unclear how these new outlets and their journalists will navigate what feels akin to the storm of the century. However, I have hopes that the rising reader-engaged, disaggregated, collaborative ecosystem of reporters and newish outlets will benefit from this moment. Ideally, they’ll draw from it a newly sharpened mission and related support. Doing so will help us all undertake the hard work in years ahead of developing policies to support new forms and institutions of public interest media that can meet and master our rocky media seas.

Tom Glaisyer is managing director of the Public Square Program of the Democracy Fund.

This moment is the epitome of uncertainty. Like many such moments of transition — when a phase change is possible — the political and media environment is highly energized, and it’s difficult if not impossible to discern exactly what the future holds. Many of us see mixed signals, where hopes for a rebirth of journalism exist side by side with seemingly unsurmountable challenges.

The context into which journalists will publish their journalism in the United States in 2020 will be extremely challenging. The truths they seek to impart to the public will be swept into a roiling ocean of information on social media platforms conducive to propaganda and falsehoods, polluted and disrupted by others seeking partisan advantage through fair means and foul.

Journalists will face a vicious cycle. Public critiques of accurate news that don’t fit audience members’ political views run headlong into politicians who exacerbate distrust by leaning into conspiracy theories and ignoring facts. Yet reporters’ work is ever more important. Their stories must truly hold the powerful accountable — whether monopolistic companies or politicians inclined towards autocracy.

That said, nothing is set; moments of transition are pregnant with possibility. Outcomes we may fear — where journalism is overwhelmed — are no less possible than those where journalism emerges newly vibrant and powerful.

The groundwork is being laid. The journalists of 2020 are newly prepared. They’re exploring approaches that involve and energize readers and ensure the topics they cover reflect reader priorities. The engaged elections movement — which reorients election coverage around the curiosity and concerns of communities — is marking the way.

Curiously, while the economic weakness of commercial outlets is undesirable, it allows the fast-growing nonprofit news sector to increasingly reflect the makeup of the American public. Projects such as the Racial Equity in Journalism Fund — alongside a renewed commitment to equity and inclusion in newsrooms — could transform the field.

Once a dirty word, collaboration is now openly embraced by news outlets where it provides value. Electionland in 2016 and 2018 involved many. State-based efforts such as Votingbloc in New Jersey will likely be replicated across other states. First Draft News, which seeks to address misinformation head on, is at its core a collaboration. Initially global, the project is now forging new relationships at the local level in the United States. Many other collaborations are being documented by the Center for Cooperative Media.

Younger journalists are ever more ready to leverage capabilities that marry data, audio, and video, and they are keen to take on the challenge of truth-telling.

It’s unclear how these new outlets and their journalists will navigate what feels akin to the storm of the century. However, I have hopes that the rising reader-engaged, disaggregated, collaborative ecosystem of reporters and newish outlets will benefit from this moment. Ideally, they’ll draw from it a newly sharpened mission and related support. Doing so will help us all undertake the hard work in years ahead of developing policies to support new forms and institutions of public interest media that can meet and master our rocky media seas.

Tom Glaisyer is managing director of the Public Square Program of the Democracy Fund.

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