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

News deserts will proliferate — but so will new solutions

“When I was a young producer, a mentor told me something that has stuck with me ever since: Corruption doesn’t show its face. That seemed a challenge to live and work by.”

When I was a young producer, a mentor told me something that has stuck with me ever since: Corruption doesn’t show its face. That seemed a challenge to live and work by; journalism after all has always been a first line of defense against wrongdoing in places high and low.

The problem is there are fewer and fewer of us doing it these days, especially in the places that need strong journalism the most: so-called “news deserts,” regions of the country where local newsrooms have been drained of resources or shut down by the economic upheaval of the modern media landscape.

That has profound implications for the role of the press in maintaining a functioning democracy. Without committed journalists, those in power can more easily escape accountability, and members of the public lack the information to make informed decisions at the polls.

In 2020, we’re not likely to see major reversals in a trend that has already shrunk the industry by almost 25 percent over the past 10 years. But while news deserts will persist — as will the attacks on the independence and integrity of the press — we will see an increase in innovative thinking about ways to support local journalism where it’s endangered.

Initiatives like the American Journalism Project are working to embed tech and business support within existing local outlets. Organizations like Chalkbeat are digging into specialized reporting topics. Journalism philanthropy is on the rise. Regionally-focused nonprofit news outlets like The Texas Tribune and Oklahoma Watch, as well as national-local collaborations like ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network, are doing increasingly robust and important work in the public interest. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting has made major investments in local and regional news collaborations involving local PBS and NPR stations, and the first regional journalism hub in CPB and NPR’s Collaborative Journalism Network launched this year.

And here at Frontline, we’ve developed our own initiative to strengthen local enterprise journalism. We’re partnering with five news organizations in communities from Florida to New Mexico, supporting them over the next year as they carry out investigations that serve their communities, while working with them to develop sustainable models to connect their journalism with new audiences. We’re grateful to the Knight Foundation and CPB for supporting this effort, which will continue with new partner organizations over the next several years.

It’s worth mentioning that in an age where cries of “fake news” have eroded public faith in journalism, renewed investment in local news has the potential to help rebuild trust in media from the ground up. A Pew study earlier this year made an important observation: that while the public has a polarized view of national news outlets, most people Pew surveyed actually believe their local news is accurate, fair, and does a good job of keeping tabs on area leaders.

So, let’s hope that in the coming year these different sectors will work together to find new ways to ensure that local journalism survives and thrives. Nothing less than the health of our democracy is at stake.

Raney Aronson-Rath is the executive producer of Frontline.

When I was a young producer, a mentor told me something that has stuck with me ever since: Corruption doesn’t show its face. That seemed a challenge to live and work by; journalism after all has always been a first line of defense against wrongdoing in places high and low.

The problem is there are fewer and fewer of us doing it these days, especially in the places that need strong journalism the most: so-called “news deserts,” regions of the country where local newsrooms have been drained of resources or shut down by the economic upheaval of the modern media landscape.

That has profound implications for the role of the press in maintaining a functioning democracy. Without committed journalists, those in power can more easily escape accountability, and members of the public lack the information to make informed decisions at the polls.

In 2020, we’re not likely to see major reversals in a trend that has already shrunk the industry by almost 25 percent over the past 10 years. But while news deserts will persist — as will the attacks on the independence and integrity of the press — we will see an increase in innovative thinking about ways to support local journalism where it’s endangered.

Initiatives like the American Journalism Project are working to embed tech and business support within existing local outlets. Organizations like Chalkbeat are digging into specialized reporting topics. Journalism philanthropy is on the rise. Regionally-focused nonprofit news outlets like The Texas Tribune and Oklahoma Watch, as well as national-local collaborations like ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network, are doing increasingly robust and important work in the public interest. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting has made major investments in local and regional news collaborations involving local PBS and NPR stations, and the first regional journalism hub in CPB and NPR’s Collaborative Journalism Network launched this year.

And here at Frontline, we’ve developed our own initiative to strengthen local enterprise journalism. We’re partnering with five news organizations in communities from Florida to New Mexico, supporting them over the next year as they carry out investigations that serve their communities, while working with them to develop sustainable models to connect their journalism with new audiences. We’re grateful to the Knight Foundation and CPB for supporting this effort, which will continue with new partner organizations over the next several years.

It’s worth mentioning that in an age where cries of “fake news” have eroded public faith in journalism, renewed investment in local news has the potential to help rebuild trust in media from the ground up. A Pew study earlier this year made an important observation: that while the public has a polarized view of national news outlets, most people Pew surveyed actually believe their local news is accurate, fair, and does a good job of keeping tabs on area leaders.

So, let’s hope that in the coming year these different sectors will work together to find new ways to ensure that local journalism survives and thrives. Nothing less than the health of our democracy is at stake.

Raney Aronson-Rath is the executive producer of Frontline.

Candis Callison   Taking a cue from Indigenous journalists on climate change

Jasmine McNealy   A call for context

Cristina Kim   Public media stops trying to serve “everybody”

Meg Marco   Everything happens somewhere

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

Felix Salmon   Spotify launches a news channel

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

Elizabeth Dunbar   Frank talk, and then action

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

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

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

Steve Henn   The dawning audio web

Greg Emerson   News apps fall further behind

Craig Newmark   Formalizing newsrooms’ battle against disinformation

Peter Bale   Lies get further normalized

Logan Jaffe   You don’t need fancy tools to listen

Heather Bryant   Some kinds of journalism aren’t worth saving

Imaeyen Ibanga   Let’s take it slow

Sue Robinson   Campaign coverage as test bed for engagement experiments

Mario García   Think small (screen)

Catalina Albeanu   Rebuilding journalism, together

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

Ben Werdmuller   Use the tools of journalism to save it

Adam Thomas   The silver bullet

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

Colleen Shalby   Journalists become media literacy teachers

Nathalie Malinarich   Betting on loyalty

Heidi Tworek   The year of positive pushback

Joni Deutsch   Podcasting unsilences the silent

Kerri Hoffman   Opening closed systems

Ernie Smith   The death of the industry fad

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

Alana Levinson   Brand-backed media gets another look

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

Jakob Moll   A slow-moving tech backlash among young people

Don Day   Respect the non-paying audience

Nikki Usher   All systems down

Monique Judge   The year to organize, unionize, and fight

Tamar Charney   From broadcast to bespoke

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

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

Doris Truong   The year of radical salary transparency

Jeff Kofman   Speed through technology

Francesco Zaffarano   TikTok without generational prejudice

Whitney Phillips   A time to question core beliefs

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

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

Michael W. Wagner   Increasingly fractured, but little bit deliberative

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

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

Kristen Muller   The year we operationalize community engagement

Matthew Pressman   News consumers divide into haves and have-nots

Tanya Cordrey   Saying no to more good ideas

Alfred Hermida and Mary Lynn Young   The promise of nonprofit journalism

Logan Molyneux and Shannon McGregor   Think twice before turning to Twitter

Annie Rudd   The expanded ambiguity of the news photograph

Hossein Derakhshan   AI can’t conjure up an Errol Morris

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

Bill Grueskin   Our ethics codes get an overhaul

Jennifer Brandel   A love letter from the year 2073

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

Talia Stroud   The work of reconnecting starts November 4

S. Mitra Kalita   The race to 2021

Simon Galperin   Journalism becomes more democratic

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

John Keefe   Journalism gets hacked

Jeremy Olshan   All journalism should be service journalism

Rick Berke   Incoming fire from both left and right

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

Seth C. Lewis   20 questions for 2020

Knight Foundation   Five generations of journalists, learning from each other

Emily Withrow   The year we kill the news article

Lauren Duca   The rise of the journalistic influencer

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

Sarah Schmalbach   Journalist, quantify thyself

Marie Gilot   This is fine

Rachel Schallom   The value of push alerts goes beyond open rates

Sarah Marshall   The year to learn about news moments

Geneva Overholser   Death to bothsidesism

Stefanie Murray   Charitable giving goes collaborative

Cindy Royal   Prepare media students for skills, not job titles

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

Dan Shanoff   Sports media enters the Bronny era

Masuma Ahuja   Slower, quieter, more measured and thoughtful

Barbara Gray   Join local libraries on the frontlines of civic engagement

Sarah Alvarez   I’m ready for post-news

Alexandra Borchardt   Get out of the office and talk to people

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

Mira Lowe   The year of student-powered journalism

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

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

Kathleen Searles   Pay more attention to attention

Sonali Prasad   Climate change storytelling gets multidimensional

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

Brian Moritz   The end of “stick to sports”

Beena Raghavendran   The year of the local engagement reporter

Meredith Artley   Stronger solidarity among news organizations

Anthony Nadler   Clash of Clans: Election Edition

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

Tonya Mosley   The neutrality vs. objectivity game ends

james Wahutu   Western journalists, learn from your African peers

Tom Glaisyer   Journalism can emerge newly vibrant and powerful

Sara K. Baranowski   A big year for little newspapers

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

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

Sarah Stonbely   More people start caring about news inequality

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

Julia B. Chan   We 👏 take 👏 breaks 👏

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting finally creates another mega-hit show

Mariana Moura Santos   The future of journalism is collaborative

Mike Caulfield   Native verification tools for the blue checkmark crowd

Victor Pickard   We reclaim a public good

Millie Tran   Wicked

Josh Schwartz   Publishers move beyond the metered paywall

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

Carl Bialik   Journalists will try running the whole shop

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

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

Ståle Grut   OSINT journalism goes mainstream

Helen Havlak   Platforms shine a light on original reporting

Monica Drake   A renewed focus on misinformation

Joe Amditis   Collaborative journalism takes its rightful place at the table

Nushin Rashidian   Are platforms a bridge or a lifeline?

Pablo Boczkowski   The day after November 4

Fiona Spruill   The climate crisis gets the coverage it deserves

Alice Antheaume   Trade “politics” for “power”

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

Brenda P. Salinas   Treating MP3 files like text

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

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

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

Jonas Kaiser   Russian bots are just today’s slacktivists

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting gets listener relationship management