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

Journalist, quantify thyself

“We could use natural language processing tools to examine the tone of our coverage over time. We could use maps to gauge how much time we spend covering communities and where our sources are from.”

At any given moment, a digital newsroom knows a lot about its audience: how much time people spend with stories, what they share, what they are saying about the news and much more. Newsrooms use this data to understand readers and develop strategies to grow their business.

But now that we’ve armed ourselves with all this data about our readers, what data do we have about ourselves to inform how our jobs and our coverage should evolve? What would become possible if we turned these tools around to look at ourselves?

We can imagine the effect by looking at a recent example of what happens when people see data about how they spend their time: Spotify Wrapped. One of the most intriguing features of Wrapped is seeing how your tastes and listening habits have evolved over the years, based on the minutes you’ve spent listening to specific artists. Some people who shared their 2019 data on social media were proud of how they spent their time, while others were slightly embarrassed. Regardless, the data gave people new points of reference for their habits, which in turn gave them a sense of how they wanted to move forward. For many, it seemed to deepen their commitment to the product, even if they wanted to change or expand their choices.

This isn’t to say that we should all rush to build a Spotify Wrapped for news. But there’s something we can learn as an industry from examining how people react to seeing data about how they spend their time.

Within many news organizations, we now have the technology to build the types of tools that help us be even more thoughtful about the time we spend covering things, and for whom. We also have the capacity and incentive to use this kind of data about ourselves, with a clear need to better serve audiences. An example of this type of evaluation is WHYY’s recent cultural competency audit, which took a research and data-driven approach to assessing whether the public radio station’s narratives were skewed. The results included a list of ways they could lessen the gap between the perspectives of the newsroom and local communities.

In 2020, we can begin to pair the product development mindset and methods with the skills usually found in data journalism and graphics, to build tools that help us be more self reflective. Like Spotify Wrapped, the data could help us compare our current habits to past ones to help develop future habits.

We could use natural language processing tools to examine the tone of our coverage over time. We could use maps to gauge how much time we spend covering communities and where our sources are from. We could compare broad geographic coverage trends over time through an interface, like Uber Movement. We could even layer public data about social or government activities on top of coverage maps to see patterns. This data would also be additive to existing newsroom knowledge about communities, important topics, key players, and issues that need attention or investigation. In the best cases, this analysis would amplify and underscore that knowledge.

This type of “quantified self” reflection could be a mirror to help us evolve with more data-informed intention and avoid the pitfalls of trendy pivots, which often originate with other players on the stage: startups and platforms. Combined with what we already know about our audiences and businesses, tools that helps us better understand and analyze our time spent could shape the purpose and function of future newsrooms. And provide us with the data to stick with it.

Sarah Schmalbach is product director at the Lenfest Local Lab.

At any given moment, a digital newsroom knows a lot about its audience: how much time people spend with stories, what they share, what they are saying about the news and much more. Newsrooms use this data to understand readers and develop strategies to grow their business.

But now that we’ve armed ourselves with all this data about our readers, what data do we have about ourselves to inform how our jobs and our coverage should evolve? What would become possible if we turned these tools around to look at ourselves?

We can imagine the effect by looking at a recent example of what happens when people see data about how they spend their time: Spotify Wrapped. One of the most intriguing features of Wrapped is seeing how your tastes and listening habits have evolved over the years, based on the minutes you’ve spent listening to specific artists. Some people who shared their 2019 data on social media were proud of how they spent their time, while others were slightly embarrassed. Regardless, the data gave people new points of reference for their habits, which in turn gave them a sense of how they wanted to move forward. For many, it seemed to deepen their commitment to the product, even if they wanted to change or expand their choices.

This isn’t to say that we should all rush to build a Spotify Wrapped for news. But there’s something we can learn as an industry from examining how people react to seeing data about how they spend their time.

Within many news organizations, we now have the technology to build the types of tools that help us be even more thoughtful about the time we spend covering things, and for whom. We also have the capacity and incentive to use this kind of data about ourselves, with a clear need to better serve audiences. An example of this type of evaluation is WHYY’s recent cultural competency audit, which took a research and data-driven approach to assessing whether the public radio station’s narratives were skewed. The results included a list of ways they could lessen the gap between the perspectives of the newsroom and local communities.

In 2020, we can begin to pair the product development mindset and methods with the skills usually found in data journalism and graphics, to build tools that help us be more self reflective. Like Spotify Wrapped, the data could help us compare our current habits to past ones to help develop future habits.

We could use natural language processing tools to examine the tone of our coverage over time. We could use maps to gauge how much time we spend covering communities and where our sources are from. We could compare broad geographic coverage trends over time through an interface, like Uber Movement. We could even layer public data about social or government activities on top of coverage maps to see patterns. This data would also be additive to existing newsroom knowledge about communities, important topics, key players, and issues that need attention or investigation. In the best cases, this analysis would amplify and underscore that knowledge.

This type of “quantified self” reflection could be a mirror to help us evolve with more data-informed intention and avoid the pitfalls of trendy pivots, which often originate with other players on the stage: startups and platforms. Combined with what we already know about our audiences and businesses, tools that helps us better understand and analyze our time spent could shape the purpose and function of future newsrooms. And provide us with the data to stick with it.

Sarah Schmalbach is product director at the Lenfest Local Lab.

Ståle Grut   OSINT journalism goes mainstream

Alexandra Borchardt   Get out of the office and talk to people

Logan Molyneux and Shannon McGregor   Think twice before turning to Twitter

Mariana Moura Santos   The future of journalism is collaborative

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

Sara K. Baranowski   A big year for little newspapers

Kathleen Searles   Pay more attention to attention

Fiona Spruill   The climate crisis gets the coverage it deserves

Julia B. Chan   We 👏 take 👏 breaks 👏

Bill Grueskin   Our ethics codes get an overhaul

Kerri Hoffman   Opening closed systems

Monique Judge   The year to organize, unionize, and fight

Meredith Artley   Stronger solidarity among news organizations

Adam Thomas   The silver bullet

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

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

Nikki Usher   All systems down

Cindy Royal   Prepare media students for skills, not job titles

Anthony Nadler   Clash of Clans: Election Edition

Monica Drake   A renewed focus on misinformation

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

Jakob Moll   A slow-moving tech backlash among young people

Michael W. Wagner   Increasingly fractured, but little bit deliberative

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

Alana Levinson   Brand-backed media gets another look

Mike Caulfield   Native verification tools for the blue checkmark crowd

Joe Amditis   Collaborative journalism takes its rightful place at the table

Sue Robinson   Campaign coverage as test bed for engagement experiments

Matthew Pressman   News consumers divide into haves and have-nots

Tanya Cordrey   Saying no to more good ideas

Sarah Schmalbach   Journalist, quantify thyself

J. Siguru Wahutu   Western journalists, learn from your African peers

Richard 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

Sarah Marshall   The year to learn about news moments

Jeremy Olshan   All journalism should be service journalism

Heather Bryant   Some kinds of journalism aren’t worth saving

Felix Salmon   Spotify launches a news channel

Ben Werdmuller   Use the tools of journalism to save it

S. Mitra Kalita   The race to 2021

Francesco Zaffarano   TikTok without generational prejudice

Rick Berke   Incoming fire from both left and right

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

Elizabeth Dunbar   Frank talk, and then action

Doris Truong   The year of radical salary transparency

Knight Foundation   Five generations of journalists, learning from each other

Annie Rudd   The expanded ambiguity of the news photograph

Seth C. Lewis   20 questions for 2020

Jeff Kofman   Speed through technology

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

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

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

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

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

Hossein Derakhshan   AI can’t conjure up an Errol Morris

Imaeyen Ibanga   Let’s take it slow

Masuma Ahuja   Slower, quieter, more measured and thoughtful

John Keefe   Journalism gets hacked

Logan Jaffe   You don’t need fancy tools to listen

Mira Lowe   The year of student-powered journalism

Marie Gilot   This is fine

Peter Bale   Lies get further normalized

Jennifer Brandel   A love letter from the year 2073

Alice Antheaume   Trade “politics” for “power”

Nathalie Malinarich   Betting on loyalty

Colleen Shalby   Journalists become media literacy teachers

Nushin Rashidian   Are platforms a bridge or a lifeline?

Meg Marco   Everything happens somewhere

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

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

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

Sonali Prasad   Climate change storytelling gets multidimensional

Sarah Stonbely   More people start caring about news inequality

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

Joni Deutsch   Podcasting unsilences the silent

Rachel Schallom   The value of push alerts goes beyond open rates

Mario García   Think small (screen)

Greg Emerson   News apps fall further behind

Beena Raghavendran   The year of the local engagement reporter

Craig Newmark   Formalizing newsrooms’ battle against disinformation

Steve Henn   The dawning audio web

Josh Schwartz   Publishers move beyond the metered paywall

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

Geneva Overholser   Death to bothsidesism

Pablo Boczkowski   The day after November 4

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

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

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

Stefanie Murray   Charitable giving goes collaborative

Cristina Kim   Public media stops trying to serve “everybody”

Don Day   Respect the non-paying audience

Jasmine McNealy   A call for context

Brenda P. Salinas   Treating MP3 files like text

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

Juleyka Lantigua   A changing industry amps up podcasters’ ambitions

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

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting gets listener relationship management

Helen Havlak   Platforms shine a light on original reporting

Tonya Mosley   The neutrality vs. objectivity game ends

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

Dan Shanoff   Sports media enters the Bronny era

Gordon Crovitz   Fighting misinformation requires journalism, not secret algorithms

Candis Callison   Taking a cue from Indigenous journalists on climate change

Talia Stroud   The work of reconnecting starts November 4

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

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

Heidi Tworek   The year of positive pushback

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

Kristen Muller   The year we operationalize community engagement

Tom Glaisyer   Journalism can emerge newly vibrant and powerful

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

Whitney Phillips   A time to question core beliefs

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting finally creates another mega-hit show

Brian Moritz   The end of “stick to sports”

Barbara Gray   Join local libraries on the frontlines of civic engagement

Alfred Hermida and Mary Lynn Young   The promise of nonprofit journalism

Lauren Duca   The rise of the journalistic influencer

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

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

Emily Withrow   The year we kill the news article

Tamar Charney   From broadcast to bespoke

Victor Pickard   We reclaim a public good

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

Carl Bialik   Journalists will try running the whole shop

Jonas Kaiser   Russian bots are just today’s slacktivists

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

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

Millie Tran   Wicked

Sarah Alvarez   I’m ready for post-news

Catalina Albeanu   Rebuilding journalism, together

Simon Galperin   Journalism becomes more democratic

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

Ernie Smith   The death of the industry fad